Prince Charles ‘intervened in school gym view row’

Prince Charles intervened in a row over a school gym being built that would have blocked a view of Ben Nevis. Picture: Getty

Prince Charles intervened in a row over a school gym being built that would have blocked a view of Ben Nevis. Picture: Getty

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PRINCE Charles’ habit of lobbying government ministers on controversial issues from architecture to farming comes under the microscope this week when the Supreme Court rules if a cache of letters his should be made public, following a nine-year freedom of information battle.

But now an elderly woman who battled to save her view of Ben Nevis after Highland Council built a school gym obscuring the iconic mountain, has revealed letters marked “private and confidential” showing the Prince of Wales tried to intervene on her behalf.

Betty and her husband Tavish Cameron, both 86, were among a small group of pensioners campaigning to stop the gym being built at the new £7 million Gaelic Medium primary school at Caol, near Fort William.

However, despite claims Highland Council failed to send out planning letters about the height of the 18m-high gym, construction work went ahead this summer to dismay of pensioners in Birch Road, in the village.

Now Mrs Cameron has released letters written by the Prince after her story appeared in Scotland on Sunday (17 August 2014).

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In a letter dated 20 August 2014 from Clarence House marked “private and confidential”, the Prince’s private secretary wrote: “I am afraid to say that, generally speaking, planning issues of this kind are not areas in which his Royal Highness can become involved. However, I will make enquires of Highland Council and will write back in due course.

“In the meantime, thank you for writing in the way you did, and this comes with the Prince of Wale’s warmest good wishes.”

Mrs Cameron said she had contacted the Prince because she felt she wanted to make a last stand against Highland Council.

“I think it was probably a last just the injustice. It was a last ditch attempt to do something about the way the council was behaving.

“I was surprised and delighted that he actually replied and got involved as this is just a small village but he is the Duke of Rothesay and a great love of Scotland.”

However, Mrs Cameron said that she believes the prince was “hoodwinked” by the council into believing that the matter had been peacefully resolved.

A further letter from the Prince dated 17 September, says “I have been in touch with Highland Council, and have received assurances that the matters you and others have raised in relation to the new Gaelic Primary in Caol, have now been fully investigated and responded to.

“I understand that Caol Community Council has been invited to be involved in the Liaison Group and I can only hope that you and others in the local community are feeling more confident about the project.”

Mrs Cameron said she had released the Prince’s letters after discussions with members of the community council.

“The council have tried to pull the wool over his eyes. There is still a lot of discontent here. There seems to be endless meetings being held with local councillors and site managers and so on coming up with things to lessen the effect of the building such as putting in high level glazing, but then it all just falls on stony ground. Highland Council don’t seem to understand that we are meant to have a democratic process in this country.

A spokeswoman for Highland Council, commenting on the letters sent by Prince Charles to the council, said: “Any correspondence from the Duke of Rothesay is private and confidential.”

Bill Clark, SNP councillor for Caol and Mallaig, previously admitted that despite meetings with 3D-scale models of the project “everyone was caught out” by the size of the structure.

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