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1 Aug 2018

Building a planning system that works for everyone

Staff at Culloden stand in a row across a path on the battlefield, all linking arms.
The Trust wants to make sure that Culloden is protected for future generations
We’re pushing for improvements to the planning system, which will make sure that Scotland’s special places are protected for everyone.

Over the past few years, the Trust has highlighted concerns about the shortcomings of the current planning system in Scotland. We’re worried that the way the system works at the moment is putting our nation’s heritage at risk, and we’ve been highlighting this to the Scottish Government.

Just this week, our Chief Executive Simon Skinner again spoke out to highlight the real threats facing Culloden and Coul Links posed by development plans that could alter their unique characteristics forever. In a letter to newspapers, he said:

‘It is with no pleasure whatsoever that I report that the National Trust for Scotland’s fears for the protection of our heritage are coming to pass.

‘On 14 January 2014, we wrote to this newspaper and many others concerning the failure of policy and legislation to protect the historic Culloden battlefield from development: The specific development (Viewhill Farm luxury houses) at Culloden does not in itself fatally impinge on the battlefield, but it sets a precedent from which other developers can argue for more portions of land to be given over to yet more housing; to their credit, this was the danger recognised by Highland Council when they originally rejected the application. Your readers will be aware that the Council’s rejection was overturned by the Scottish Reporter.

‘As I write this letter an additional four development applications have been submitted, all located in the Conservation Area. These may herald even more development, in turn threatening to form a circle that, if unchecked, would eventually widen, join up and constrict the core site protected by our charity. Exactly what we foresaw may well come about and we are in danger of Culloden suffering the same fate as Bannockburn battlefield.

‘At the same time, we see that Councillors have approved a golf course development on the Coul Links, despite the location being of such environmental importance that it falls within the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

‘Four years ago we argued: We need a planning framework that considers the totality and long-term wellbeing of heritage sites rather than the current, diffuse focus on individual planning applications in isolation. That need still exists.

‘We are at a crossroads. Do we want to protect our outstanding historical places and natural heritage or not? Do designations to protect heritage such as Conservation Areas and SSSIs still have any meaning?

‘Developers will always argue that pristine sites are more attractive because they are cheaper to build on and offer attractive locations for living and leisure; they will always play the trump card of claiming that jobs and economics outweigh the loss of history and habitats. We would do well to remember that the economic benefit to Scotland from tourism directly attributable to our outstanding places of beauty is far larger than the entire agriculture and fisheries sectors combined. Others seem to value our heritage even if we don’t always appear to.

‘In 2014, we called on the Scottish Government for dialogue on how we can properly identify sites of national importance and ensure full consideration of heritage significance is embedded within the planning process. It is now time for that dialogue. The forthcoming Planning (Scotland) Bill is a watershed that could either prove to be the saviour of some of Scotland’s most special places or the prelude to their irrecoverable loss.’

This is just one example of how the National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

In Our Strategy for Protecting Scotland’s Heritage 201823, we set out how we’re planning to work towards our vision that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now, and for future generations.

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