Culloden boss speaks of 'spiritual place' as new plan emerges to protect battlefield from developers
Raoul Machin-Curtis, operations manager at Culloden Battlefield, spoke out on the 274th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, when Jacobite forces led by Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated by the British Army near Inverness on April 16, 1746.
The battlefield attracts around 300,000 visitors from around the world every year but serious concerns exist about its future integrity given the number of housing developments which have either been approved, or are under consideration, on land that falls within its historic boundary .
Mr Machin-Curtis said: “People have a spiritual response to this landscape. The big open space allows you to breath and respond to the layers of history that are here.
“It is fairly unspoilt at the moment but the minute you have too much modern intrusion, you lose that.”
When asked about how he felt about the future of the battlefield, Mr Machin-Curtis said: “To be brutally honest, I am feeling mixed but I think we have got the germ of a way forward.”
He said results of the ‘huge’ Culloden 300 consultation into the importance of the battlefield and how it is managed and protected were now in place but would now be released after the coronavirus crisis has eased.
Mr Machin-Curtis said he wanted to bring together organisations who have a statutory voice in plannig matters – such as NTS and Historic Environment Scotland – with local people to get a consensus on applications that impact on Culloden.
He said: “I can see a way forward. The more we have everyone’s voice heard in the right place, the better.
“Everyone is trying to do the right thing by Culloden but we keep getting slip ups with inappropriate developments falling through the cracks in the system.
“Government agencies and charities like ourselves and the public need to work much more closely together to stop this. I think we can forge a new way of working.
“We have got designations coming out of our ears, you have the battlefield inventory, you have the conservation area and everyone knows that is important but you are treating the battlefield in the same way – you are drawing a line around it.
“What we haven’t done is get different organistions together and really debate the merits of these planning applications and come up with a coherent, considered response to what is being proposed.
“I would like to see a group being convened that had representatives of organisations and local people on board to evaluate these planning applications.
“What we want to do is get the right heads together to get a coherent voice on planning matters affecting Culloden and to ge that voice into the planning system.”
Mr Machin-Curtis said Scottish Government ‘buy-in’ would be required for such a group to be taken seriously and carry weight in the planning process.
He said the Viewhill Housing development of 16 homes to the north east of the battlefield was his biggest regret in terms of the developments that impact on Culloden.
The plans were originally refused by Highland Council but then approved on appeal by the Scottish Government planning reporter.
“We can see it from the middle of the battlefield. You can see the pitched roofs and they don’t fit into the landscape,” he added.
A plan to build a holiday park and 100-seat restaurant at the Treetops Stables site to the north of the historic battlefield boundary was refused but later revived with a fresh application to Highland Council. It has yet to be decided.
This week, the Scottish Government’s planning reporter has made its recommendation to Scottish Ministers over plans to built a luxury home at Culchunaig, which sits just south of the boundary fence of the section of battlefield owned by NTS.
The conservation charity owns a third of the entire battlefield site with the remainder held in private hands.
The reporter’s recommendatin of Culchunaig, an area of activity on April 16 1746, will remain confidential until Scottish Ministers make the final decision on whether the proposed house is acceptable for the site.
NTS did not object to the application given that the proposed house, a redevelopment of an existing 19th Century property, would not alter the sight lines from the battlefield.
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