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Culloden home bid sparks anger

By Scott Maclennan

An artist’s impression of the proposed development at Culchunaig.
An artist’s impression of the proposed development at Culchunaig.

THE National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have been slammed over not objecting to a large house to be built “quite literally over the graves of fallen clansmen” at Culloden.

That is after a planning application was lodged to turn an old barn at Culchunaig into a “sprawling, two storey, large, modern luxury villa with a metal seamed roof.”

The application goes before Highland Council’s south planning applications committee today.

The Historians’ Council on Culloden (HCC) is among objectors, stating: “Both NTS and HES have written that, barring any important archaeological and historical evidence on the site, they would not object.

“Except there is indeed evidence that Culchunaig played a major role in the battle, that there were fatalities all around the area, the mortal remains of whom were not carried to the pit graves and have been found there ever since.”

The HCC also maintained the area “played a critically important part in the battle and its aftermath, including the famous last fight of the legendary hero of the battle, Gillies MacBain”.

NTS north west manager Clea Warner wrote that after the correct archaeological work, and so long as the development was the same size, it has no objection, adding it might enhance the site. She stated: “The proposed redevelopment of this existing, but dilapidated, building may prove to be appropriate subject to the correct heritage assessments, scale and design.”

HES noted the conversion of the steading “would create three new structures” and despite being located in a “sensitive part of the battlefield” that could impact “physical remains associated with the battle” did not object.

Both agencies sought the archaeological investigation of the site before work begins.

Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans said: “That neither NTS nor HES have raised any objection is unfathomable. The NTS seem to say it will improve the area – improve it by building quite literally over the graves of fallen clansmen?

“The view of NTS is not consistent with those they expressed at other developments further away and would appear to undermine the aspiration to have the Culloden Battlefield area preserved as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

“HES made questionable submissions which appears to have already eroded trust in their judgment with earlier sensitive planning applications at Culloden. This leaves planning nowhere to go other than to approve the application as the applicant may very well simply win on appeal.”

Developer Mark Hornby, of MRH Design, defended locating what he maintained is to be a “family home”.

“Obviously I am aware of the objections but I try to put that to one side and look at the facts. The current building on the site was placed there after the battle.

“It has been sensitively done and in fact is bringing an old dilapidated building back to life so it has a sympathetic impact on the surroundings.

“The full archaeological inspection is under way, with little to no findings so far.”

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