IT WAS built in 142 AD to stop Caledonian tribes marching on Roman outposts. But the Antonine Wall is now stopping the march of development by putting in jeopardy plans for a new distillery and 87 jobs.
Falkirk Distillery Company (FDC) is trying to revive production of one of Scotland's most prized Lowland single malts on a site close to where the wall ran. But the plan has encountered objections from Historic Scotland and now faces a public inquiry.
The government agency says the nearby wall – designated a Unesco World Heritage Site last year – is unique and aims to find out how it was built.
FDC fears it is being used as a "test case" by Historic Scotland on how development close to the wall should be treated in future. Several other businesses, including a hotel and a garden centre, have already been set up close to the wallbefore the UN designation.
Fiona Stewart, a director of FDC, said: "Our development is being used as a test case. The site is well away from the wall. In fact, you would never know the section of the wall in question was there."
She added: "We are not poo-pooing the importance of the Wall, and we are not some big bad developer looking to build over an ancient monument.
"Our distillery would be based in a listed building, and we have worked hard to preserve as much of it as possible."
FDC plans to spend 5 million to reopen the Rosebank distillery, closed in 1993. It would produce 60,000 litres of malt a year using the same 19th century copper stills and mash tun rescued from the original distillery. There would also be a restaurant, visitor centre, and gallery, with 87 full-time jobs created as a result.
The planning application was approved by Falkirk Council in March, but has been called in by Ministers, and will go to public inquiry in December.
Stewart explained that the visitor centre would not promote the name of Rosebank, and the Antonine Wall.
Falkirk Council ruled that while the distillery would "affect the setting of the wall," it was not considered "so significant as to warrant refusal of planning permission."
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland described the wall - built on the orders of Emperor Antonius Pius – as "the most substantial and important Roman monument in Scotland."
She said: "The area where the distillery is proposed is particularly important because of the relationship of the wall to the broader landscape and what this tells us about the tactics employed by the Romans.
"It is because of this we raised concerns about the proposals which will now be considered at public local inquiry."