after the last tree has been
Only after the last river has
Only after the last fish has
Only then will you find that money
cannot be eaten"
URQUHART CASTLE by Loch Ness
Announcing a Landmark decision by a local Council Planning Department to
Recommend Objection of a Government Quango’s Application That Would Have
Seen Scotland’s Third Most Visited Castle Ruined Forever
Highland Council’s Planning Department today
released its recommendations to Councillors. In a landmark decision, it
has overwhelmingly recommended objection to Historic Scotland’s proposals.
In a new and novel use of the world wide web Nessie on the Net! (at
http://www.lochness.co.uk), one of Scotland’s (and the world’s) most
popular cyberspace locations, and winner of many awards, has lobbied continuously
around the clock and around the globe to secure the Castle’s safety. Thousands
of people have sent letters of support to our site which have been registered
and acknowledged by a forward looking Highland Council. As a result of
our campaign, there are valuable lessons to be learned both by ourselves
and many other groups seeking to influence planning matters both within
this country and elsewhere. The Internet is at last proving that it is
an important tool for constructive democratic debate and the decision making
process. It takes a forward thinking local authority like Highland Council
to accept and demonstrate the positive uses of the Net both within planning
matters and politics in general.
Briefly; Historic Scotland’s proposals were to
destroy all existing vegetation and features (including possible unexplored
archaeological remains) by dumping tens of thousands of tonnes of rubble
into a man made slag mountain in front of the castle. A massive visitor
centre, 80 seat restaurant, toilets and audio visual interpretation centre
were to be buried within the slag heap underneath a car park containing
space for 120 cars, 12 coaches and some caravans. Anyone who has visited
this area can appreciate the tragedy if this were to be allowed to happen.
Sadly, unless Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth can be persuaded by a
national media led campaign (and further efforts on the Internet), this
unelected quango enjoys Crown immunity and can snub the Council and all
the objectors and build the scheme with absolutely no regard for democratic
control. That is the state of our democracy.
In a lengthy and detailed document, the Planning
Officers express strong disapproval of the scale of environmental damage
and tax payer subsidised commercial competition that would be raged against
small and fragile local businesses. This represents a tremendous victory
for local democracy over a callous, distant and insensitive Westminster
administration. It is hoped this marks the beginning of the end for the
damaging and unaccountable quangos that rule so much of Scottish life.
Two supporters and about 3000 objectors(!) are
listed (including almost 1500 Internet objections received via this Nessie
on the Net! world wide web site - http://www.lochness.co.uk).
These accompany the planning officers’ recommendations. Since the Council
were presented with the data the Internet total alone has risen to nearly
3000. Many of these responses are long and detailed personal letters and
they deserve to be considered and respected. Of the two letters of support,
one is from the Chief Executive of Inverness and Nairn Enterprise - another
involved local quango!
The Government now has a clear responsibility
to exercise control over a quango that has wasted massive amounts of tax
payers’ money on a crusade that would see the world famous ruin of Urquhart
Castle and its unique setting spoiled forever. Historic Scotland has admitted
spending £100,000 of public money on a few acres of sheep grazing
(required for their planned monstrosity). The Directors of Historic Scotland
should now be forced to explain who is responsible for such dreadful and
unacceptable wastage. In a country now ruled by unelected and unaccountable
quangos, it is clear what a terrible price is being paid for arrogance
and/ or incompetence. Ridiculous and outrageous decisions are being made
because the people running these despotic, untouchable and previously unassailable
outfits feel (quite naturally) above the law and any common norms of operation.
Who is really responsible? Where does the buck stop and who is going to
pay for it? Why should the tax payer have pick up the tab for such a preventable
Urquhart Castle is known and loved around the
world; just look at the volume and content of Internet objections, local
objections and those collected directly from visitors to the area. To dump
tens of thousands of tonnes of imported rubble onto such a beautiful location
would be sacrilige. To use European Objective 1 money (limited to, and
targeted at, areas of financial deprivation) as well as British tax payers’
funds to compete with local small businesses struggling to survive from
an eight week holiday season is frankly disgusting. Particularly when it
comes from a government that states it is committed to small businesses
and local enterprise.
The document: Highland Council Planning Department’s
recommendations to Councillors meeting at Urquhart Castle (2pm, 17 September)
“That the Council Objects to the proposed scale
and nature of the commercial facilities comprising the restaurant and shop.”
“At this stage the Council must register an overall
OBJECTION to the Notice of Proposed Development...”
This Internet site, on behalf of almost three
thousand objectors, takes delight that for once a local authority is standing
up to central government to prevent unelected quangos from destroying a
small but viable community and its environment. We call upon Scottish secretary
Michael Forsyth to intervene as he has previously indicated he would. He
must now step in urgently and declare Urquhart Castle and its environment
(next to a Site of Special Scientific Interest) too important as a national
treasure to be subjected to cynical and undignified commercial exploitation.
He must also state that local business is far too precious to destroy.
We call upon Michael Forsyth to endorse the statement
made within his own Local Enterprise Agency’s (Inverness and Nairn Enterprise)
report. Entitled “Drumnadrochit - settlement profile”, by Development Options
it states “the advantage of using [a shuttle bus from Drumnadrochit] is
that it supports development of Drumnadrochit as a centre for visitors.”
He must also note that the same document warns that “a new (180 space)
car park and visitor centre at Castle Urquhart would provide an alternative
major visitor attraction to Drumnadrochit itself. The implementation of
such a proposal would damage the potential for developing Drumnadrochit
as a centre for visitors”, i.e. kill its life blood. This is the government
agency's very own report - ignored now and no longer referred to because
it’s too embarrassing.
The village businesses here have got together
themselves and, off their own back and in the face of a government setting
out to destroy them for its own profit, built a car park that has massively
lifted the village economy. In this microcosm, that so well reflects the
state of Scotland, a wider Britain and all those many great monuments threatened
with exploitation (Stonehenge etc.), a battle for survival is being fought.
Now that it at last looks hopeful (and we pray
for support from the Councillors) that common sense will prevail and Historic
Scotland’s scheme will be thrown out, we ask that they are prevented from
cynically returning in a few months’ time. The basis for solution has been
made available by the village: It is simply to run a shuttle bus from the
new car park. It is nothing strange, untried or weird.
Will this government now finally support and
cooperate with small business and declare Urquhart Castle off limits to
all new development? Only if the whole nation is made aware of the disaster
that looms here will such a thing happen. This is a vital national debate
and one which is of relevance to so many treasured areas around these isles.
The protection of the past for the children of the future is surely a fundamental
aspect of any civilisation.
Please contact Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth.
The question for him must be: will he finally order his dogs of war away
from Urquhart Castle? And perhaps you could write or fax the European Commissionn
and ask why we can't be told who the people are who sit on the Objective
1 monitoring committee that approved Historic Scotland's application, or,
indeed,what evidence they took into account! Is this a fair and "transparent"
decision making process? This Internet site will be making a formal complaint
of MALADMINISTRATION to the European Ombudsman.
by Loch Ness, does not want to die and businesses here will work hard
to help Historic Scotland make a shuttle bus work.