ELDERLY residents of a Highland street are campaigning to have their view of Ben Nevis restored after the construction of a school gym meant they could no longer gaze out on Britain’s highest mountain.
Pensioners in Birch Road, in Caol near Fort William, claim the first they knew they were about to lose their vista of the 4,409ft peak was when building began on the new £7 million Gaelic Medium primary school last month.
Many say they did not get planning letters from Highland Council informing them about the 18m height of the gym now under construction.
Bill Clark, SNP councillor for Caol and Mallaig, has admitted that despite meetings with 3D-scale models of the project “everyone was caught out” by the size of the structure.
Lead campaigner Lorna McCalman, who has taken legal advice on behalf of her parents Betty and Tavish Cameron, both 86, claims she been advised the council did not follow planning procedures. Her online petition objecting to the gym has gathered more than 700 signatures.
“Every time my parents and their neighbours look out their windows they see this brutal thing. My dad fought in Malaya and he and mum are from a stoic generation which has given so much. To have this happen to them is cruel.
“The council must have thought the pensioners were a ‘pushover’ and not believed their luck at no-one objecting. But they didn’t get their letters in the first place.”
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, wrote to the council’s chief executive on 31 July questioning its “transparency” over the issue. He wrote: “It seems highly likely to me the residents would have objected if the council had been transparent about the size and position of the gym. I suspect residents [were] taken by surprise as the technical nature of the plans available to them prior to the decision required a technical interpretation that could not reasonably be expected of them.”
He told Scotland on Sunday: “I’m happy to lend my weight to calls for the council to take this matter seriously. A number of elderly people will have their view of Ben Nevis totally blocked. There are also issues of how obvious this was in the plans. At the end of the day it is a matter for the council and I would hope they would work at resolving it.”
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said an internal review had found correct planning processes had been followed. Thomas Prag, chairman of the planning committee, said: “We are aware a small number of concerns have since been raised and are listening. Some planting measures may be undertaken to reduce any perceived effect of shading.”