REFUSED: £1m planned development for Culloden Battlefield in Inverness
A PLANNING application for a major £1 million development on the edge of Culloden Battlefield has been refused after dozens of objections.
The proposals to convert the former Treetops Stables at Faebuie, Culloden Moor into a leisure resort with lodges, a restaurant and a shop did not meet with the approval of Highland Council planners.
The application received 87 objections and a large majority of the 251 comments were against any change or further expansion of the stables.
The move comes just a day after news the Historians’ Council on Culloden (HCC) announced an ambitious plan to preserve the battlefield by creating an “entity” that would snap up land around the site before developers can get their hands on it.
The National Trust for Scotland has also been spearheading plans to get the site recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Once again Historic Environment Scotland (HES) failed to lodge any objection to the plans claiming the site was “not central to the events of the battle itself and primarily forms a backdrop to the battlefield landscape”.
But council officers disagreed saying it has not been demonstrated that the plan will “preserve or enhance” the area of the battlefield, citing both the Highland-wide development plan and the Culloden Muir Conservation Area.
That decision has been warmly welcomed by Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans, who played a pivotal role in establishing the conservation area. He was delighted, saying the planners’ decision “sends a message” that developments in the protected area must accord with the policies of the conservation area.
He said: “I welcome the decision by Highland Council planners because this kind of development will not be tolerated. It is a conservation area, it is part of the battlefield and we do not want to see developers come in a spoil that.
“I am delighted, however, that the conservation area policies were taken into account by planners as supplementary guidance. Mostly, this sends a message – development on the greater Culloden Battlefield will not be tolerated.”
On HES not objecting to the proposal, Cllr Gowans said: “This was the first test of the conservation area in planning and it did what it was set up to do, which is put the case for preserving and protecting the area.
“But when we hear HES did not lodge any objection and it is a national heritage body, it has not met the expectations that the public could reasonably wish to see from it.”
A council spokeswoman said: “A planning application for change of use from an equestrian centre to holiday, leisure and hospitality facilities including 13 lodges, cafe/shop, reception, laundry and restaurant on land at Treetop Stables, Faebuie Culloden Moor, Inverness has been refused under delegated powers.”
The statement went on to give numerous reasons including not protecting existing woodland, that the need to develop the wooded site has not been demonstrated, and the site lacks public benefit.
Crucially, it was a concern that the plan could harm the battlefield area as the proposal could compromise the “natural environment, amenity or heritage resource of the tree preservation order area or the Culloden Muir Conservation Area”.