Culloden: head of battlefield criticises Scottish Government for lack of action on 'destructive development' at historic site

The head of Culloden Battlefield has said the historic site is under threat from the 'relentless growth' of Inverness with the Scottish Government failing to act on 'destructive' housebuilding projects in the area. PIC: Creative Commons/Herbert Franks.
The head of Culloden Battlefield has said the historic site is under threat from the 'relentless growth' of Inverness with the Scottish Government failing to act on 'destructive' housebuilding projects in the area. PIC: Creative Commons/Herbert Franks.
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The head of Culloden Battlefield has criticised the Scottish Government for taking 'no action' to stop 'destructive' developments  infringing on the historic site.

Raoul Curtis-Machin, Operations Manager, Culloden Battlefield, said the threat to the battlefield site was being driven by the 'relentless growth' of nearby Inverness with developers now 'eyeing up' the empty space of Culloden and the cheap potential of greenfield sites.

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He said more consistency was needed in handling planning matters given a string of recent controversies that impacted the battlefield.

Last week, it was announced the Scottish Government had 'called in' an application to convert a derelict steading at Cluachnaig, a site that saw action during the 1746 battle around 50 metres from the boundary fence of the NTS section of battlefield.

But Mr Curtis-Machin said the government had failed to act on far more 'destructive and intrusive proposals', such as the 16-home development at Viewhill Farm which he described as a 'blot on the landscape' that could be seen directly from the battlefield.

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He 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 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."

He said NTS warned of allowing developments such as the one at Viewhill Farm would 'threaten the integrity and setting of Culloden" and set a precedent for developers proposing to take over more land,

"That is exactly what we are seeing now," he added.

Mr Curtis-Machin said: "A nation and its economy does not exist on housebuilding alone. We have long argued that cultural and historical significance is vital to our psyche, yet can also help local communities by generating visitor income. Visitors come to see history, not rows of detached and semi-detached boxes."

Mr Raol confirmed NTS did not object to the Cluachnaig development, asking only that conversion of the abandoned farmhouse should not exceed the existing footprint and that the style and dimensions remained the same.

Archaeologists should be allowed to watch over the site during the works, NTS said.

Historic Environment Scotland also did not object to the proposal.

He said that a consistent approach at national level was now needed to handling planning matters that impact the battlefield.

Last year, NTS launched the Culloden 300 initiative to ensure the battlefield is at its best for the 300th anniversary of the 1746 encounter between Jacobite forces and the British Government. A wide ranging consultation is running to find out what people and organisations want form the site.

Mr Curtis-Machin added: "Culloden should not be hemmed in by development – but neither should Culloden hem in our creative thinking and our livelihoods."

The Scottish Government has been contacted for a comment.