Fury as holiday village at Culloden looks set to get green light
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Campaigners are facing another desperate battle to save a vital piece of Highland history.
It now seems increasingly likely that planning officers will recommend approval for a planned holiday village near Culloden battlefield.
The controversial scheme has angered protesters who claim it would despoil the scene of the last mainland battle in Britain.
The 1746 clash marked the end of the Jacobite rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie and is an emotive part of the story of the whole Highlands.
Developers and their supporters say it is well away from the actual battlefield, however, and will provide high-quality visitor facilities the area is crying out for.
The proposals have been put forward by Inverness Paving which wants to convert the former Treetops Stables at Faebuie, Culloden Moor, into a leisure destination comprising 13 new holiday lodges, an on-site café/retail facility and a new restaurant.
Previous plans were rejected by Highland Council officials last year because of their impact on the surrounding woodland and natural environment.
A resubmitted application has prompted a war of words which is due to be decided at a Highland Council planning committee early next month.
A lack of objections from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Highland Council’s forestry team has raised hopes for approval.
Outdoor enthusiast, broadcaster and writer Cameron McNeish joined in the furore on social media.
He tweeted: “Feel pretty furious that council planners are recommending approval of a ‘holiday village’ on the edge of Culloden Moor.
“Don’t these planning people and developers have any respect for history, or for the dead? Highlanders should be up in arms about this.”
George Kempik, a founder member of the Group to Stop Development at Culloden (GSDC), was not surprised but "very angry".
"The council doesn’t make a planning decision based on it being a battlefield," he said.
"It is more to do with the environment, what effect it is going to have on the community, the traffic, forestry, flora and fauna.
"We feel this is a very big deficiency in the planning process."
He also felt the removal of previous objections by the council’s forestry team was now “a big spanner in the works” in protecting the area.
Dot Menzies Holden, another member of GSDC, said there was a huge failure to understand how far the battlefield stretched.
"A development such as this is totally out of character with the surroundings," she said.
"It will cause light and noise pollution to a historic site that should be protected for posterity."
Carolyn Seggie, an administrator of GSDC, said Culloden was one of the most important sites in Scottish history due to its aftermath.
“Highland Council’s planning considerations must be changed to reflect this,” she said.
Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans said planning officers could only put forward a recommendation based on what was in front of them and pointed out HES, as a statutory consultee, had not objected.
"It is very frustrating that a site such as this of local, national and international importance is being treated in such a disrespectful way by Historic Environment Scotland whose primary role is to preserve the nation’s heritage," Cllr Gowans said.
A 185-name petition has also been lodged in support of the developers claiming objections are primarily from people not living locally.
It stated: "The development simply comprises the conversion and reuse of our existing stable buildings to create a new, high-quality restaurant for local people and visitors, with tremendous open views north to the Moray Firth and 13 small-scale timber built holiday lodges for visitors, elevated and carefully located within the mature pine woods on our site.
"These lodges will be carefully set among the fine existing trees with no vehicles or other disturbance to the woodland."
A council spokesman said the planning application was still under consideration.
Scottish ministers have directed they should be notified if the council "is minded" to grant permission and although it does not commit them to calling in the application, it does reserve their right to intervene.
A spokesman for HES said it had been consulted on the planning application as a statutory consultee and submitted its response earlier in the summer.
"After careful consideration, we do not feel that this proposed development, where there is some existing development, would alter the characteristics of the battlefield or have a significant impact on the landscape or the underlying archaeology," he said.
"The proposed development preserves the wooded setting of the area and won’t be visible in sensitive views from the core of the battlefield site.
"On this basis, we have not objected to the proposals."
Related story: War of words at Culloden continues