HISTORIC Scotland has been criticised over its involvement in a planning application that could see a windfarm substation built on a historic battle site.
East Lothian Council granted permission for the controversial substation to be built on “a substantial proportion” of the site of the Battle of Prestonpans last week.
The move has angered the local community and around 800 people packed into a church in Cockenzie, East Lothian, last week to voice their frustrations at the proposals.
The Coastal Regeneration Alliance (CRA) has set up a protest group to fight the development, which could also see an enormous marine energy park built on the site of the now-defunct Cockenzie power station.
And during last week’s public meeting, Gareth Jones, a member of the steering group and of the battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust 1745, claimed members of Historic Scotland involved in discussions about the windfarm proposal were being “leant on” to approve the plans.
Inchcape Offshore Windfarms Ltd plans to build the substation on the north-west corner of the battle site which is said to contain the remains of hundreds of soldiers who fell during the conflict.
Mr Jones said: “Historic Scotland did not object to the Inch Cape proposal because they were being leant on from above.
“They are a government agency. I know the people involved personally in these processes in the battlefield’s register – and I don’t believe they would have made the statements that they made in the final response to East Lothian Council on the Inch Cape proposals had somebody else not told them, or made them do it.
“They care passionately about battlefields – like most people from Historic Scotland, they care about the historic environment – but it is pressure from above that is making them make statements that are not actually what they believe personally. Historic Scotland did, at the initial stage of Inch Cape, write quite a fulsome response that was pages long and went into all the details of why they objected to them building on the battlefield, but at the final stage they withdrew it claiming the applicant had changed the details and therefore it was all fine. But the way the applicant had changed the details was to move the suggested area where the transformer units might be, and rather than one large building there were two large buildings.
“They didn’t change the red line boundary area – it was the exactly as it was in the original application which includes a substantial proportion of the battlefield – so Historic Scotland has allowed East Lothian Council to grant consent for a development on the battlefield which is on the national register of battlefields.”
He added: “I think that is totally unacceptable and I think Historic Scotland need to take a good look at themselves and the way they are behaving. I don’t think this is the last we will hear of this either.”
Historic Scotland’s website claims any proposal to build on the Battle of Prestonpans site “would not have a significant impact on the battlefield landscape” and an archaeological dig would take place before any work began on the area.
A Historic Scotland spokesman said: “In June 2014 we highlighted the importance of considering the impacts of any proposal for an energy park upon the Prestonpans Battlefield, in the Environmental Impact Assessment which Scottish Enterprise are currently undertaking.”