Culloden: Crunch meeting at battlefield looms amid plans for luxury home on 'national war grave'

The proposed luxury home overlooks the section of Culloden Battlefield owned by National Trust of Scotland. PIC: Creative Commons/Herbert Franks.
The proposed luxury home overlooks the section of Culloden Battlefield owned by National Trust of Scotland. PIC: Creative Commons/Herbert Franks.
Share this article
0
Have your say

Historians, planning experts and civil servants are due to gather at Culloden Battlefield at a crunch meeting which will help inform whether a luxury home can be built on what some have described as a "national war grave".

The Scottish Government's planning reporter will make a site visit to land at Culchunaig where plans have been lodged to turn a dilapidated farm steading into a family home complete with zen garden, hot tub and chill out zone.

The site sits just to the south of the boundary fence of the portion of the battlefield under the ownership of the National Trust of Scotland, which manages around a third of the area where the final encounter was staged between the Jacobites and British Army in 1746.

READ MORE: Luxury home plan at Culloden approved by councillors
Historians have shown that significant contact was made around Culchunaig during the battle with human remains found in the area.

Highland Council approved the plans for the development in September but Scottish Ministers 'called in' the application to review all aspects of the case.

The Scottish Government planning and Environmental Appeals Division confirmed that the site visit is due to go ahead on Friday, January 24.

Dr Christopher Duffy, of the Historians' Council on Culloden, earlier described the proposed development as an "appalling intrusion on this national war grave."

READ MORE: The Jacobites who fought on after Culloden
He will be represented on Friday by Andrew McKenzie, a former manager at Culloden Battlefield and owner of Highland Historian heritage consultancy and bespoke tours.

Mr McKenzie said: "It is hugely concerning that we are, yet again, having to make the arguments for conservation on Culloden Battlefield.

"A lot of work has been done to collect and further the understanding of what happened at Culchunaig, and that information is now freely available to the Scottish Government Reporter and the Councillors who voted on this application.

"It cannot now be argued that this was not an incredibly important part of the battle site. Physically and tactically that has been proven beyond doubt. This is not about preventing a derelict building from being made-safe.

"This is about understanding that a precedent has already been set; and the current decision has the potential to either correct or perpetuate that precedent for developing a known battle site. It is also about ensuring that we conserve what is left of our heritage; knowing as we do that technology and practices, particularly in archaeology, will develop beyond our current abilities for research.

"If we cannot protect a site that has such strong historical evidence, the we are seeing the systematic destruction of historic sites by processes that ignore knowledge."

Concerns have been raised about the precedent set by the approval of 16 homes at Viewhill Farm to the north east of the NTS visitor centre, with the development falling within the historic battlefield boundary.

NTS did not object to the Culchunaig development with Raoul Curtis-Machin, NTS operations manager at Culloden, arguing that converting the dilapidated farm building would not alter the sight lines from the battlefield.

But on Culchunaig, Mr Curtis-Machin added: "Where our genuine surprise comes from the fact that the Scottish Government has chosen to call in this planning application, yet it took no action over far more destructive and intrusive proposals.

"Viewhill Farm is 'Exhibit A' where the Scottish Government's Scottish Reporter overturned Highland Council's refusal and allowed it to go ahead. Now it forms a real blot on the landscape, directly in line of site from the cairn in the middle of the battlefield."