Public Inquiry - Urquhart Castle

 

Urquhart Castle Action Group (UCAG) - Final Submission

 

 

Mr. Robert McIlwraith, Regional Director, Historic Scotland North

 

UCAG asked Mr. McIlwraith whether he agreed with The Operations Manager of Inverness Traction (Stagecoach) group that (during peak months only) the Castle's visitors (in cars) could be ferried to and from Park & Ride areas using two coaches plus a third in reserve (see UCAG3). Coach visitors would continue to use the Castle car park.

 

Although Mr. McIlwraith disagreed that this was possible, UCAG highlighted Stagecoach's wealth of experience and specialist knowledge and interest in participating in a Park & Ride solution.

 

UCAG also asked Mr. McIlwraith to read SNH's letter (UCAG58) in which they stated that they believe their earlier letter had been "used wrongly" to support the Applicant's proposals.

 

Mr. McIlwraith was asked how he believed the word "safeguarding" (taken from Historic Scotland's remit - "to protect and safeguard the nation's built heritage") could be applied to NOPD2. He stated that he believed the Applicant was "safeguarding it by presenting it well to the public". UCAG contends that his remarks do not adequately explain how the enormous impact of NOPD2 will actually safeguard the Castle, in the protective sense of the word.

 

UCAG showed that although Mr. McIlwraith stated that the Applicant "was driven by the same commercial pressures" as other businesses they are in fact, as part of government, in a very different and somewhat privileged commercial position.

 

UCAG also questioned Mr. McIlwraith on the lack of visitor surveys into NOPD1 or NOPD2. Mr. McIlwraith said that the Applicant had conducted some "internal surveys" (which have not been produced) but had not conducted full surveys of visitors' views regarding the proposals. UCAG asked whether the problem was that visitors (when asked by local businesses or on the Internet) had always stated their total opposition and that Historic Scotland simply did not want this answer, Mr. McIlwraith disagreed. UCAG considers that no satisfactory alternative answer was given to the lack of visitor surveys. It is considered very surprising that an Agency like Historic Scotland has made no efforts to poll its visitors' opinion and UCAG is concerned as to the reasons.

 

Mr. McIlwraith was asked about the normality of the day on which his video evidence (as shown during the Inquiry) was obtained. UCAG sought to establish whether, in fact, it was a day on which Invergordon cruise liner coaches all arrived together (having given prior notice) on top of normal coaches, cars etc. The Reporter interrupted at one point to clarify whether UCAG was seeking to point out that it felt it was "a set-up job". The evidence given by Mrs. K. Matheson also appears to support this. UCAG contends that the day in question was indeed a predictable (and therefore avoidable) coincidence of events captured on video.

 

UCAG established that land not belonging to the Applicant had been purchased from a third party and that it now forms the location of NOPD2. UCAG therefore established that the systematic criticism of each option (in the Applicant's "Appraisal Of Options Document (HS16)) on the grounds that they required land not already owned by the Secretary of State was not, in fact, correct. Clearly, the Applicant could purchase any land required in connection with its activities, even if not adjacent to the scheduled areas.

 

UCAG established that the "illegal Park & Ride" operation last year involved co-operation between Historic Scotland and other landowners. UCAG notes that Mr. McIlwraith's initial denial of knowledge of the Park & Ride operation was cleared up by Superintendent McGhee, who confirmed its existence.

 

Ken Wilson, Ken Wilson Associates

 

UCAG established from Mr. Wilson that NOPD2 was not located south-west of the Castle and therefore was not in keeping with the Local Plan (sect. 4.42).

 

Mr. Wilson also confirmed that the visitor centre in NOPD2 had not been part of the "design competition" which resulted in this proposal. Only a possible location for a centre was requested from competition entrants.

 

Mr. Wilson confirmed that the new slope would be made from imported infill and would be largely un-reinforced. Apparently, outlying edges of the slope would be held together with a geotextile material. Mr. Wilson brought forth a great deal of evidence seeking to pre-empt discussion on the potential for land slides (caused by heavy rain or other means) and seismic activity at the site. UCAG implores the Secretary of State to consider urgent incorporation of UCAG 10, UCAG 11 and PPG14 into an NPPG for situations in which existing slopes are excavated or new slopes are created. UCAG highlighted that Scotland has one of the highest incidences of landslides within the UK and that NOPD2 will sit directly upon a known fault, numerous natural springs and, of course, alongside the Great Glen fault itself.

 

UCAG established that most of the existing fill could not be reused due to its silty content and therefore the new slope would require new material, putting the estimates for the number of required lorry journeys into the upper most figure.

 

Under cross-examination Mr. Wilson agreed that if you treble car-parking spaces (40 to 120) and you treble dwell time (see precognition) you will still have the same problem of a full car park. He replied "I suppose that is one way of looking at it". It was also put to Mr. Wilson that the Applicant currently claims to have about 250,000 visitors a year and claims to lose about 25,000 (see Ms. Fiona Larg's precognition) due to a full car park. Therefore adding the reclaimed lost souls gives 275,000 visitors a year, which is the design capacity of NOPD2 (HS2). He again replied, "I suppose that is one way of looking at it".

 

Dougall Baillie Associates

 

Under cross-examination Mr. Carrie said, "I am comfortable that there could be a few years of comfort gained by this scheme". UCAG considers that it has demonstrated that NOPD2 is likely to be full on the day of opening and, in any event, a few years comfort at a cost of £4million is an outrageous proposition. The few years of comfort would presumably be followed by even worse chaos.

 

UCAG agrees with NRD that "none of us are Mystic Meg" but highlights its own recalculations of the Applicant's figures which demonstrate that, using additional data for Castle visitor numbers for 1996/97, NOPD2 will, in all likelihood, be full to capacity when it opens. UCAG remembers other well-known fiascos such as, for example, the M25 motorway, which was over capacity before it officially opened.

 

UCAG successfully highlighted that summer and winter traffic at the Castle is very different. UCAG also considers that the 44mph "design speed" was calculated after inadequate measurements were taken on one single day. It was agreed that the "design speed" could be very different if the measurements had been taken over more periods, including different times of the year.

 

Variable message signs were suggested as a means of directing traffic. UCAG points out that the usual message may well be "Car Park Full". Notwithstanding this, UCAG did not find itself reassured by NRD that the proliferation of signs at the dangerous Castle bends (e.g. Entry, Exit, Pay on Enter, normal road signage, tourist signage, stacking lane markings and new variable message signage) will do anything other than add to the confusion and utter chaos.

 

Mrs. Lucy Vaughan, District Architect - Historic Scotland

 

UCAG established that Ms. Vaughan considered the maximum capacity figures for the site to be 400 in the Castle, 400 in the new visitor centre and 200 elsewhere on the site. Mrs. Vaughan was questioned regarding the mechanism for controlling the numbers of visitors allowed into the Castle itself at any one time. The reply was that a electronic till system would report on numbers going through and Mrs. Vaughan agreed with UCAG that this meant that people would be held back in a sort of "holding tank". This in itself leads to a great increase in "dwell time" on site and Mrs. Vaughan was unable to provide any information concerning the method for prioritising coaches over persons held back in the "holding tank". UCAG also considers that it was made clear that the mechanism could not possibly cope at peak periods, or when sudden rain drove large numbers of people from the ruins back into the already full visitor centre.

 

Mrs Vaughan also stated that 13% of visitors arrived by coach and boat.

 

Mrs. Vaughan was asked how visitors would know of the "pay on enter" philosophy given as a mitigating factor against use of NOPD2 by non-Castle visitors (i.e. tea-room visitors). She said this could be achieved by signage, possibly variable signage. UCAG questioned whether, in fact, the variable message signs had already been identified as purely for Road Traffic control purposes. Mrs. Vaughan then suggested that signs could be placed in the new car park, but was forced to accept that signs placed in the car park could not be seen by visitors until they had actually turned into the car park. Therefore, UCAG clearly highlighted that there will either need to be an incredible profusion of confusing signage at the dangerous Castle bends or all kinds of visitors will still turn into the car park, thereby adding markedly to the predicted numbers of vehicles entering and exiting the site. Clearly, this matter has not been adequately addressed.

 

Mrs. Vaughan was asked whether the area marked for "community use" in NOPD2 would be made freely available. She did not know.

 

Mrs. Vaughan was recalled for further questioning (by the Reporter) to deal with the issue of lighting at the site. When asked if any exterior lighting had been considered in NOPD2, she stated that she was not aware of any such consideration. UCAG asked whether the car park would have a barrier at night. The answer was "no".

 

UCAG contends that the "community area" is effectively useless to the community if the area is unlit, since it is clear that it would generally be used outside Castle opening hours and, for a good part of the year, these would be hours of darkness. The community area also appears to have no windows so would not be particularly pleasant for many purposes.

 

UCAG also believes it has demonstrated the folly of creating a large, out-of-town, car parking area with tree and shrub screenage while leaving it unlit during the hours of darkness. The area may be used for unwholesome purposes or as a convenient "over night stop" for motor homes, caravans etc. UCAG's witness, Mr. Dick McMillan MBE, gave evidence that the area around the existing car park is "filthy". This problem may be seriously compounded by NOPD2.

 

UCAG also pointed out that adequate lighting in the new car park could constitute serious light pollution, in this most sensitive area and this matter has not been, as Mrs. Vaughan admitted, adequately addressed. Light pollution is a matter of planning concern at this sensitive location.

 

UCAG questioned the ease with which the "reduced" kitchen area to the tea-room in NOPD2 could be returned to NOPD1's restaurant size version. UCAG successfully demonstrated that, physically, only one light "stud" partition would need to be moved. The tea-room, already agreed as equivalent in seating capacity to the original restaurant, could then be a fully functional restaurant with a magnificent view over the Castle and Loch Ness. UCAG's witness Mr. Dick Beach, proprietor of the "Fiddlers" restaurant in Drumnadrochit gave evidence that the tea-room would cause him serious damage but a restaurant at the magnificent Castle location could devastate the village's existing facilities.

 

Mrs. Vaughan stated in her precognition that one of the benefits of NOPD2 would be the removal of "the existing shop, the temporary toilets in the ditch and the mobile food van and ticket office." UCAG obtained agreement that any of the suggested alternatives could achieve the same objective.

 

Ms. Fiona Larg, Chief Executive Inverness & Nairn Enterprise

 

Ms. Larg admitted that the percentage figures provided in her precognition relating to village support for various options at the Castle site were derived from just 78 letters. She did not provide the Inquiry with any tangible evidence of these documents or their contents. UCAG notes that, despite endless requests and offers, these letters have never been forthcoming and are, in consequence, hearsay.

 

UCAG established that Ms. Larg considered that the Applicant had made "significant concessions" in NOPD2 that mitigated its effects on the community. UCAG then established that Ms. Larg did not feel that this "out-of-town" plan would damage the village (this evidence clearly conflicts with the 7-11% downturn predicted her own organisation's assessment). UCAG contends that there is an inconsistency in all of this evidence since, if no damage would occur via the out-of-town NOPD2, then it must follow that the "mitigation" and "concessions" are actually irrelevant. Notwithstanding this, UCAG established that Ms. Larg does not agree with the independent report by Development Options (UCAG61), commissioned by her own agency. The report clearly states that "…the single most important visitor attraction related issue for Drumnadrochit is Castle Urquhart (p36)." The "car park and visitor centre at Castle Urquhart would provide an alternative major visitor attraction to Drumnadrochit itself." Also, "the implementation of such a proposal would damage the potential for developing Drumnadrochit as a centre for visitors (p37)".

 

Also, "The provision of the shuttle bus should provide the core of an integrated transport system..(p40)". "The advantage of using this approach is that it supports the further development of Drumnadrochit as a centre for visitors (p37)"

 

UCAG has demonstrated that the report by Development Options is extremely relevant and detailed. It is the only independent report that actually deals with the whole of the Drumnadrochit area in detail, unlike other more tightly focused, or blinkered, reports (before or since).

 

UCAG highlighted considerable inconsistencies between past INE economic impact assessments of options for the castle. The fact of business displacement is no longer disputed, merely its extent and duration. It was felt that the latest INE economic impact assessment made too little allowance for the "Loch Ness focus factor". This assessment also failed to reassure local businessmen who at the least, would have to adopt a "wait and see" policy in regard to their own development plans. They are also unsure of how long the economic damage would last.   Ms. Larg readily agreed that the tourist proportion of traffic on the A82 closely matched that of the A9 and that therefore Drumnadrochit could not expect to attract visitors to the area but rather, must rely upon the proportion who stop on their way through.

 

Ms. Larg agreed under cross-examination that she was not aware of the detailed financial position of village businesses, as she had not seen their accounts. She said that some door to door visits had been made but agreed that "you cannot get a very accurate picture by simply asking questions of businesses" in that context. She was unable to say how much damage the 7-11% loss of turnover mentioned in her precognition might do to local businesses.

 

Mr. Patrick, Town Planning Consultant

 

UCAG discovered that Mr. Patrick did not feel that alternative options were a material consideration for planners. He did however agree that no provision for a tea-room, shops or café had been made for Urquhart castle in the Local Plan (sect. 4.42). He also agreed that development between the A82 and Loch Ness would fly in the face of the Development Plan and all planning convention and precedent for the area. It was also agreed that the Development Plan was a statutory consideration and that Development Control policy 7 was a material consideration.

 

Mr. Patrick agreed that geology of the site was a material consideration for planners but that there are no guidelines in existence (in Scotland). UCAG again hopes that the Secretary of State will urgently consider an NPPG on this matter (taking into account UCAG10 and UCAG11 and PPG14).

 

Mr. Patrick failed to convince UCAG that a presumption to leave in situ did not mean the same as a presumption against excavating the artefacts (NPPG5). UCAG felt that, on this point, Mr. Patrick was not logical and should have heeded the words of Dennis Healey; "when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging".

 

Mr. Douglas Sampson, Derek Lovejoy Partnership

 

UCAG succeeded in highlighting the inadequacies of the digital pictures and "artist's impression" sketches used by Mr. Sampson in his evidence. It is clear from Mr. Sampson's own precognition that the digital photos provide a "backbone" that lacks detail and Mr. Sampson readily agreed under cross examination that there is no "depth of field" or "perspective" in them. Given that this is the case, the artistic impressions produced from these images cannot be considered to be even remotely accurate.

 

UCAG successfully demonstrated that Mr. Sampson, while evidently very capable of landscaping a large new building in a man made area such as Milton Keynes, cannot possibly improve upon the natural setting of Urquhart Castle's surrounding countryside (no human being could do such a thing). UCAG believes that his display of the geotextile material (synthetic netting) aptly demonstrates the alien inappropriateness of this whole project. The natural beauty of one of the most well known views in the Highlands cannot and should not be meddled with. Additionally, Mr. Sampson stated that the development would start to look more settled after the first five years, a lot better after ten and settled after fifteen years or so. Asked whether this meant we needed to wait fifteen years to see if his experiment would work, he answered "that a lot of us will be dead by then anyway". UCAG contends that the lengthy period, which even Mr. Sampson concedes will be required for the massive scars on the landscape to heal, is no laughing matter and will, by itself, greatly detract from the enjoyment and amenity of the unique Castle site. It could easily seriously harm the international view of the area, its reputation and its tourist economy. Fifteen years would, in any event, be well beyond any estimate of the life of NOPD2, in terms of its design capacity.

 

Mr. Sampson gave evidence that he would provide "glimpses" of the Castle from the car park to draw people to it, but that the car park would not, in turn, be visible from the Castle. UCAG asked if he meant he was going to use some sort of "one way trees" for screening. UCAG notes Mr. Sampson's analogy through which he sought to explain the "one way glimpse" paradox. He stated, "a man sitting in a tree waiting to shoot you could see you, but you could not easily see him". UCAG points out that a car park is much larger, much more visible and much more dynamic than a man in a tree.

Mr. Sampson systematically failed to convince UCAG under cross-examination that he could "improve the natural setting in some ways".

 

Mr. Sampson stated that he absolutely disagreed with the submission of the Royal Fine Arts Commission. Asked why they might have lodged such a strong objection, he stated that he felt they had made up their minds first and then written their submission to fit. UCAG pointed out that this might have been the case for Mr. Sampson but received no reply.

 

UCAG successfully pointed out a contradiction between Mr. Sampson's evidence and that of Ms. Lucy Vaughn. Para 5.14 of Mr. Sampson's precognition states that "planting on the roadside must be kept to a minimum due to the sight lines required at the exit point. This will in itself facilitate views from the A82 into the upper area of the car park making people aware of its existence and encouraging them to stop". This directly contradicts para 4.3 of Ms. Lucy Vaughn's evidence that a "prime objective" is to "[make] as much of the proposal as possible invisible when viewed from strategic points such as; the A82."

 

Mr. Nicholas Brigland, HM Inspector of Ancient Monuments

 

Mr. Brigland, HM Inspector for Ancient Monuments, agreed under cross-examination that the Applicant should have commissioned the Headland Archaeological Report much earlier in this process. He said that if the report had been available before the Applicant lodged its proposals he would have advised against pursuing this plan. Mr. Brigland agreed that NPPG5 left no doubt that the preference is to leave archaeological remains in situ, undisturbed. UCAG accepts Mr. John Wood's (Council Archaeologist) assertion that the remains are unique and not properly understood and should be left undisturbed, in accordance with NPPG5.

 

Mr. Brigland also agreed, under cross examination by UCAG, that Historic Scotland, as a monitoring and regulatory authority given powers over third party planners and developers, had not set the "best example" by their conduct.

 

Glenurquhart Community Council

 

UCAG successfully demonstrated that the previous Community Council gave detailed consideration to NOPD1 and NOPD2 and, following active Public Meetings in the village, rejected them on two occasions.

 

UCAG demonstrated that between the last considered rejection of the Applicant's plans and the recent volte-face the only material change was the discovery of archaeological remains in "Trench 9" (Headland Report, HS  ). UCAG demonstrated that the new Community Council's position must therefore be, at best, inconsistent with the facts of this matter as they have come to light. UCAG also demonstrated, through cross-examination of Mr. Alan Bell, that the Community Council had not given consideration to Headland Archaeological Report and very little to any of the other reports and documentation concerning the Applicant's proposal. Possibly a case of "not wishing to be burdened by facts". UCAG discovered, through cross-examination, that at least one of Members participating in the Community Council debate was the spouse of a Historic Scotland employee working at the Castle. Except for this Member, Mr. Bell accepted that no others had direct links with the important tourist economy in the local area.

 

Mr. Bell denied knowledge of correspondence received by the Community Council either in favour or against their decision but acknowledged the existence of at least one letter strongly against (published in the Inverness Courier, UCAG 66). Mr. Bell acknowledged, under cross-examination that the Castle had not been an issue in the Community Council elections. To his knowledge no election literature or canvassing mentioned the matter. He agreed that some candidates who were known to support the Applicant's Proposal lost, as well as some candidates known to oppose it (and vice versa). This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that NOPD2 was not an issue.

 

The Community Council's precognition is considered, by UCAG, to present a list of reasons to oppose the Applicant's proposal, rather than to support it.  The precognition is noted to contain the following line "members felt that most who had approached them (not a representative random sample) were in favour but then states that "this was not the case for all members".

 

UCAG notes that some Community Council members sought to introduce a second precognition into this Inquiry without seeking the formal authority of its own Members. UCAG also notes that this second precognition was then pulled out of the Inquiry after it had been delivered and a third precognition was entered (equivalent to the first with the addition of a Community Councillor's name on the top). UCAG contends that the confusion of the Community Council is indicative of their competence on this whole matter.

 

UCAG has demonstrated that the Community Council's recent decision could most generously be considered as ill-considered and inconsistent. UCAG looks forward to its early reversal.

 

Mrs. Margaret Davidson

 

UCAG successfully demonstrated that Mrs. Davidson's so called "polls" of village opinion on the issue of Urquhart Castle are not backed up by any tangible evidence and that the "polls" were not conducted with a consistent methodology. Mrs. Davidson accepted that she had sought to "explain" the proposals to a proportion of those she "polled". This was contrasted by a variety of petitions collected by UCAG and produced in evidence to the Inquiry (including 169 local signatures against NOPD2, all of the mainstream businesses in Drumnadrochit and Lewiston and thousands of Internet letters and submissions).

 

Mrs. Davidson argued that her fellow supporter, Ms. Fiona Urquhart, had canvassed most of the local "bed and breakfast" supply community and that the majority supported NOPD2. UCAG demonstrated, under cross-examination, that, since Ms. Urquhart was absent from the Inquiry and had only told Mrs. Davidson of the poll, it amounted to hearsay about hearsay. Again, in complete contrast to UCAG's productions, no tangible evidence of any description has been placed before this Inquiry. UCAG witness, Ms. Elma Urquhart, who has lived and worked in the Glen for some 49 years also gave evidence that directly contradicted Mrs. Davidson's comments on the views of local community opinion. Mr. Charles Kennedy has also made his views known to the Inquiry.

 

UCAG highlighted that the claimed moderation or downgrading of the "restaurant" to a "tea-room" following the rejection of NOPD1, and thus fulfilling the wishes of the Highland Council,  was much devalued by the fact that the food retailing area was actually called a "tea-room" in the original plans of NOPD1 submitted to Highland Council in May 1996. UCAG contends that it had only "grown" into a "restaurant" so it could be downgraded to a "tea-room" later, as a grand gesture of compromise. Mrs Davidson was asked if, as a Councillor, she had ever observed that developers sometimes ask for more than they needed, so that by appearing to compromise they would actually achieve their original objectives. She said she had not noticed such things.

 

UCAG successfully demonstrated that Mrs. Davidson's allegations of self-interest made in her precognition were false and designed only to damage its members' credibility. Mrs. Davidson was forced to accept that many members of UCAG had no identifiable vested interest of any kind, and that her personal attacks and remarks were simply malicious and hurtful.

 

Mr. Allan Sellar, Provost Highland Council

 

UCAG quickly established that Mr. Sellar simply believed that his colleagues on Highland Council had conspired to wreck Historic Scotland's plans as "an act of vengeance" for previous disagreements between the two organisations. UCAG considers this to be a remarkable and, frankly, ridiculous slur on the Council and forced Mr. Sellar to accept that many Councillors had made impassioned speeches regarding the integrity of Urquhart Castle and its setting.

 

UCAG also demonstrated that Mr. Sellar had very little grasp of the facts, since he failed to realise that his example of a tragic fatal accident at the Castle exit had actually taken place elsewhere. UCAG also showed that, in any event, NOPD2 would not materially improve the chances of avoiding such an accident in the future.

 

UCAG clarified that, despite submitting his comments on Town House headed paper, Mr. Allan Sellar's view was his personal view and was not in any way officially sanctioned.

 

Kathleen Matheson, Tour Guide

 

UCAG contends that it established that many coaches visiting Urquhart Castle offload at the site and then travel to Drumnadrochit car park where they wait, empty, until returning to the Castle to collect their passengers. This uses up valuable parking space in Drumnadrochit in the peak season.

 

 

 

 

Mr Alastair Mackenzie

 

Mr. Mackenzie suggested to the Inquiry that the planning process could not be used to prevent commercial competition and claimed that village businesses would not be harmed by the Castle proposals. Under UCAG's cross-examination former Councillor and local shop owner, Mr. Mackenzie (now retired in both respects) accepted that he had been instrumental in passing the "Urquhart Castle Off-Street Parking Order" (UCAG 14). The bye-law expressly forbade the sale of goods at the Castle and Mr. Mackenzie was the supermarket owner in Drumnadrochit at the time it was put through (naturally, all businessmen fear commercial damage of their own businesses and wish to protect them). UCAG thereby demonstrated that there was, at best, an inconsistency in Mr. Mackenzie's evidence. Clearly, yesterday's village businessmen feared the damage an "out-of-town" Castle development would do to them. Today's businessmen now face the same predicament.

 

Superintendent McGhee

 

UCAG established that Northern Constabulary's Area Commander, Super Intendent McGhee has serious safety concerns about the continuing operation of Urquhart Castle as a visitor attraction. He also voiced worries about the footpath adjoining the A82, as it nears the Castle. He also indicates his concerns regarding the hazards inherent in a major construction operation at such a dangerous location. He has indicated, as have his predecessors, that closure of the Castle must be considered as an early option if matters are not resolved soon. UCAG accepts that closure of the Castle car park is therefore a viable and safe solution for, if it were not, it would not have been suggested by Superintendent Finlayson (UCAG 42) and Superintendent McGhee at the Inquiry. UCAG accepts that it could be closed temporarily, while a solution is implemented, or permanently. The Secretary of State may wish to consider whether the imminent threat of a serious or fatal injury at the location merits such action.

 

The Superintendent readily confirmed the existence of last year's illegal Park & Ride and UCAG showed that the cars which successfully parked at this offsite location would need to be added to the numbers accommodated by NOPD2.

 

Lord Burton

UCAG has successfully drawn attention to the unrepresentative data used in the preparation of visitor growth projections, which have lead to the erroneous conclusion that the project is viable to 2008, when 277,000 visitors are predicted.

 

UCAG has produced recalculations of Ken Wilson Associates tables showing that the data selected was more favourable to Historic Scotland,  by a factor of more than 2, than any other projection of visitor growth which could reasonably be produced, based on figures in H.S. productions.

 

The KWA table showed visitor numbers growing at an average rate of 4711 per annum. UCAG recalculations showed a range of growths between 9459 and 20,432 per annum, indicating that capacity would be reached, at latest, by the (expected) second year of operation, 2002.

 

Counsel for Historic Scotland argued that the 1996 and 1997 figures are unrepresentative. UCAG would say that they are real figures, but to  accommodate H.S. Counsel's concerns here, if data from those years is excluded, the lowest of our predicted growth rates is lost in the process, and our lowest growth rate based on data in precognitions now rises to 10,240 per annum.

 

It can be seen that visitor figures predicted by KWA for the years 1996 and 1997 are underestimates by 36,105 and 32,438 respectively of the actual turnstile figures in those years. This alone should have triggered a recalculation by Historic Scotland. It did not.

 

Historic Scotland itself suggested, in Mrs Vaughan's evidence, that almost 87% of visitors arrive in cars. This conflicts totally with KWA's basic design assumption that the figure is 40%. There are also inconsistencies in the estimates of dwell time. They appear never to have been measured yet they are a critical design parameter.

KWA assess that traffic and visitor growth will total 34% over a ten year period, in line with the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges High Growth Estimate.

 

Alas, Mrs Vaughan indicated that visitor numbers grew by 15% in 1995, and a further 20% in 1996, showing that the DMRB rate of growth is inapplicable to a visitor attraction, and fails to take account of such variables as, inter alia, exchange rates, perceived security risk, movie releases, industrial action in the transport sector, and the weather.

 

While UCAG identified the years chosen as a basis for growth calculations

as unrepresentative, it also criticises the arithmetic growth model used as being rather unusual, and point out that percentage growth models are more generally used.

 

Two other methods of assessing the long-term viability of the car park have been mentioned.  In the first, the idea of tripling the car parking space from 40 to 120, followed by tripling the dwell time from 40 minutes to 2 hours, leads inevitably to the concept of no net gain over the present situation.

 

In the second even simpler method one takes the visitor figures  produced for INE by Ms Larg, which were 250,000 admissions in 1997 and 25,000 turned away.( – this last figure was first used  in an INE – HS document (UCAG 60) as early as 7/10/94, and may well have grown by now.)

One simply adds those entering to those trying and failing to enter, to get 275,000 in total.

 

UCAG also pointed out that the 1997 visitor numbers were achieved by utilising additional parking space in the village car park for empty buses, and an unofficial Park and Ride scheme from Borlum Farm at peak season. Turnstile figures show numbers paying to get in, without commenting on where they parked while they did so. Testimony from local residents suggests that far more than 40 car spaces were being employed thus defeating implications that 40 spaces can accommodate 244,000 visitors per year.

 

UCAG has shown that the calculations of future car parking space requirements are fundamentally flawed and invariably underestimates. The fact that NOPD2 is not viable has hereby been amply demonstrated.

 

Ms. Heather Cary

 

UCAG notes that Ms. Cary's option is radically different to that presented within Historic Scotland's "Appraisal of Options" document (HS  ).

 

The plan is presented as a viable and sustainable alternative to NOPD2 and is, most importantly, reversible - if and when demand for car parking at the Castle falls away.

 

Ms. Cary's option offers future scope for enlargement and could be cut lower into the ground to further conceal its layout. Trees and / or a bund could provide heavy screening. Again, this screenage would be removable in the future. The proposed car parking area is located away from the Castle, would be an order of magnitude cheaper to implement and could co-exist with a Park & Ride or integrated transport solution, if so desired. A modest display area and toilets could easily be accommodated within the proposed layout.

 

Like other options in HSxx, Ms. Cary's option has not been accurately and fully explored. Ms. Cary also stated that her proposal is based on an acceptance that the Castle road improvements (listed for NOPD2) and bus park improvements would also be necessary.

 

Mr. A. Shine, Chamber of Commerce

 

UCAG demonstrated that too little weight had been given to the Highland Council's Development Control Policy No7, even though it formed part of the Local Plan. Mr Patrick agreed that this Policy did make the safeguarding of investment within established communities, a matter of material consideration. Furthermore, he saw some justification for the rejection of NOPD1 on the grounds of scale since the Local Plan specific to the castle, makes no reference to catering or retail facilities. It is argued of his view that "visitor reception facilities" should be interpreted as containing these elements, is subjective when judged against reception facilities at other locations. 

 

UCAG did show that opposition to the proposals was effectively universal among  local businesses and that this opposition is current. It is accepted that there are individual bed and breakfast proprietors in support but it has been shown that commercial impact upon them is more neutral and it appears that some were under the impression that an accommodation booking service was to be operated from the castle. It has also been made clear that a park and ride solution to the problems at the castle is that favoured by local businesses. These facts are not obscured by there being two or more businesses on one site or more than one proprietor of a business. The use made of the petitions in production entirely supports the conclusions stated in precognition.

 

The planning application made by the chamber for the village car park was outline only and while it was certainly introduced in order to bring the park and ride concept within the planning debate there was no wish to cast details in stone. Highland Council only received a tiny handful of letters of objection. Rightly or wrongly it was a conscious decision of the Chamber to step aside, pending this public enquiry.

 

Mr. Takala, Internet Campaign

 

UCAG showed that thousands of letters and messages have been received from local people, nationals and internationals. The letters have been available to read during the Inquiry and were sent to Highland Council and The Secretary of State.

 

The Internet campaign demonstrates a weight of feeling against both NOPD1 and NOPD2 as, prior to Highland Councils meeting, many earlier respondents were in fact re-contacted, given details of the changes and asked to comment. The opposition figures stayed broadly consistent with earlier figures.

 

UCAG successfully highlighted the value of many of the submissions, given that they came from Castle visitors or those knowing the area extremely well.

 

UCAG also demonstrated that the area is extremely prone to land slides and heavy rain damage and drew attention to UCAG10 and UCAG11 and PPG14. UCAG hopes that the Secretary of State will review these documents and close what it perceives as a loophole within the NPPG series.

 

UCAG considers that, given Mr. Patrick's confirmation that geology is a material consideration, it has cast some doubt on the suitability of NOPD2 for its location.

 

Mr. Alastair Macpherson

 

UCAG showed that two meetings of the "Working Party" set up to explore options for development at Urquhart Castle were simply inadequate. No significant changes were made to NOPD2 and Mr. Macpherson expressed his view, as a member of the working party, that it had been a waste of time.

 

UCAG also highlighted a local fear that development at the Castle will open the floodgates to an Aviemore style over development of the loch's shoreline.

 

UCAG produced evidence to the Inquiry showing that some 95% of mainstream businesses in the village had signed up in opposition to the Applicant's proposal.

 

UCAG demonstrated that a Park and Ride would be a viable stand alone solution or could be integrated into an integrated transport system. It is a solution waiting to happen. The Chamber of Commerce had sought to demonstrate the local wish by businesses to get together and help themselves by facilitating a Park & Ride, as they had already successfully developed the car park with Highland Council.

 

UCAG demonstrated that this is a community that can help itself to solve problems and succeed and it should be allowed to do so.

 

 

 

Mr. Menzies

 

UCAG highlighted Mr. Menzie's concern that previous planning mistakes such as Bridge Street in Inverness and the Supermarket in Drumnadrochit (nominated Radio Scotland's ugliest building in Scotland) should be learned from and used to prevent fresh follies. UCAG noted that at least these disasters could be reversed in the future, unlike NOPD2, which would effectively remain, like Dounraey, forever.

 

Site Visit

 

UCAG believes that the scale of impact to the Castle and its setting was best appreciated during the site visit. Sadly, the scaffolding erected to demonstrate the degree of intrusion to Highland Councillors, before their Planning Meeting (Sept. 96), was not available for consideration by the Reporter. The scaffolding left some Councillor's visibly shaken at the time. However, it was possible to pace out from the Castle to the toe of the slope and this comes within just 30m of the castle moat. It is not difficult to imagine the impact that the scheme's steep slope would have on the site from all the major vantagepoints. The Castle would be dwarfed by a modern day construction, described by Mr. Charles Kennedy MP (in his submission to this Inquiry) as a "literal blot on the magnificent landscape".

 

The walk along the A82 was most interesting because it was clear that some motorists did indeed seek to enter via the Castle's Exit and also a high speed overtaking manoeuvre took place as a car turned into the Entrance. Given the short duration of observation (a few minutes), and the odd but undoubtedly calming impact that a large group of clip board wielding individuals must have had upon the traffic, it is clear that the road is far more dangerous than the National Road Directorate has led this Inquiry to believe. UCAG feels that it clearly demonstrated that NRD's reliance on one day's design speed to get around the need for vast improvements is simply reckless and may easily result in a future catastrophe. UCAG implores the Secretary of State to review this matter as common sense tells all of us that the road around the Castle is extremely dangerous. UCAG and many of its opponents agree that this road is very dangerous.

 

UCAG points out that there will be little improvement to the Exit, or egress from the site, and that it may be made more dangerous as southbound traffic speeds increase due to the reduction of stacking on the A82 (southbound). It was clear during the site visit that coaches were unable to make a left turning exit without crossing the centre line of the carriageway. Post NOPD2 traffic making a right turn exit from the site will need to negotiate oncoming southbound traffic, traffic coming from the south and turning right into the castle using the new "deceleration / stacking lane" and north bound traffic. These factors, combined with the high numbers of foreign tourists involved are a recipe for disaster.