Campaigners fight to save Battle of Bannockburn's strategic hill

CONTROVERSIAL plans which could see an historic hill that played a crucial role in the Battle of Bannockburn being destroyed by quarrying are to go to a public inquiry or hearing.

Gillies Hill, near Murrayshall Quarry at Cambusbarron, Stirling. Picture: Jane Barlow

The Gillies Hill at Cambusbarron, near Stirling, played a decisive role in the Battle of Bannockburn, but much of the hill has already been quarried away for roadstone.

Quarrying ceased 20 years ago, but now Patersons Quarries Ltd, of Coatbridge, want to resume quarrying, create a new access road and carry out restoration work at Murrayshall near Cambusbarron.

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Last month, Stirling Council’s planning panel had been expected to rule on the application in August, but now, after months of delays, Patersons have asked for the Scottish Government to “call in” the application.

Paterson want the application to be dealt with by national planners on grounds of “non-determination” of the application by the council and has requested that a planning hearing or public inquiry is held.

Stirling Council planning officer Marie Buchanan wrote to councillors this week: “The appellant/agent has requested a hearing or inquiry. The reporter will consider this request and in doing so take account of the planning authority’s view on this matter.

“The final decision on this matter will lie with the reporter and if he/she decides a further procedure is required then all parties will be advised.”

The Save The Gillies Hill group and others have fought a long campaign against the proposals and a march took place at Cambusbarron on Sunday - the closest Sunday to the 702nd anniversary of the famous Battle.

Save Gillies Hill group secretary Marion MacAllister said: “Save Gillies Hill will not rest in its endeavours until the hill is safe from the threat of quarrying.

“This hill is important not only for historic and recreational reasons but also for the fact that this land is important to the people of Stirling and beyond.

“It is loved for the quiet, the green, the peace, the age of the woods, for the fact that it is so close to and that families have walked there for multiple generations. Each person has their own way to love this very special place.”

The application has generated more than 1000 letters from interested parties to be submitted to council planners. A petition launched last year objecting to the plans gained more than 1250 signatures in less than a week. Protestors complained about the impact of the proposed restart of quarrying on the area and local wildlife.

The developers say the scheme will create six jobs plus work for hauliers, fitters and electricians and allow the exploitation of good quality aggregate for the construction industry.

Gillies Hill’s Murrayshall Quarry was worked from the 1920s until 1996.

Planning permission to re-open the quarry was granted in 1982, but requires to be renewed before any work can take place.

The Descent of the Gillies on to the field of Bannockburn is seen as a turning point in the 1314 battle, in which Robert the Bruce defeated the English King Edward II.

According to legend, as the tide of battle swung in the Bruce’s favour, the “Sma’ Folk”, or “gillies” - servants, cart drivers and camp followers who had been concealed behind the hill - swarmed down to finish the fight.

The English, thinking the rabble to be another regiment of Scots infantry, were further demoralised and fled in panic.