THE Queen’s official historian in Scotland is supporting campaigners who want to save an ancient graveyard in Perthshire.
Professor Christopher Smout, the Historiographer Royal, said plans to convert Kinfauns Parish Church into a luxury family home were “totally insensitive”.
He supports the view of campaigners who believe the Victorian church should simply be allowed to crumble into ruins while the 900-year-old graveyard remains in use.
The site also contains the remains of an 11th-century church immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in The Fair Maid of Perth. The French knight Sir Walter de Longueville, who fought with Robert the Bruce at the siege of Perth, was buried there, along with his huge sword, which was uncovered there centuries later.
The graveyard surrounding the two churches is still in use today, but campaigners say plans to convert the Victorian chapel into a luxury house will render the burial site almost unusable.
Proposals lodged with Perth and Kinross Council include plans for a conservatory which overlooks recent graves. Campaigners also say it will be difficult to reach the house without stepping over graves.
In his letter of support, Prof Smout said plans for development were “totally insensitive”. He said it would be more fitting for the C-listed Victorian chapel to be left to decay.
“For centuries, when a church falls out of use, its ruins are left in the graveyard to mark the sacred aspect of the place. This should happen also at Kinfauns.”
Lady Tanya Lowson, whose family seat of Bandirran is close to the graveyard, said the campaign to prevent unsuitable development on the site had been going on for 18 years.
Kinfauns Parish Church was taken out of use by the Church of Scotland at the end of the 1980s and sold to an Italian family for 38,000 in 1991.
Marzia Bortolussa and Dino Mazzarotte applied to convert the building into a timeshare property, but their plans were dismissed by Perth and Kinross Council. Two appeals were rejected by the Scottish Office.
However, it recently emerged that the Italians had sold the chapel to local developers – and the project is now being advertised online as converting the church into “a sophisticated dwelling”.
Architects Muir Associates of Perth have submitted an application on behalf of Newhouse Developments to convert the church into a five-bedroomed luxury family home.
Lady Lowson, whose family mausoleum is in the graveyard at Kinfauns, said she had received hundreds of messages of support for her campaign opposing the development.
She added that many of those who campaigned 18 years ago had since died and been buried in the graveyard, and she was campaigning on their behalf.
Farmer David Walter, whose home at Balthayock is near the graveyard, which is also the burial place of many of his family, is backing the campaign.
He believes the Victorian church should be demolished to allow the graveyard to continue being used.
Ian Muir, director of Muir Associates, said:
“It is a very sympathetic design which ensures all the important historical details are conserved and enhanced.”
“People are entitled to their opinions but, from a conservation point of view, it is important to find a new use that preserves the building.”
PLAN FOR 1,800-HOME VILLAGE
A PLAN for a 1,800 homes, plus shops, community buildings and a school, has been lodged with Perth and Kinross Council.
Almond Valley Village will be created on a 400-acre greenfield site between Almondbank and the Inveralmond Industrial Estate.
The developers say the plans will include affordable housing and help meet local authority aims of providing 10,000 new homes in the area by the year 2020.
The council says the proposals, submitted yesterday by Savills on behalf of landowners the Pilkington Trust, will be publicly available via its website from next week,
Jonathan Henson, a director of Savills in Perth said
the Pilkington Trust was keen to see the homes built were of high quality and were sympathetic to the landscape.
The plans are to create a new village community with a school at its heart over 15 years. A quarter of the new homes will be classed as “affordable”.
The plan shows a new junction on the A9 between Creiff Road and the Inveralmond Industrial Estate.