Archive Material
Urquhart Castle Action Group

Saving the Highland's Heritage
14th September 1996


    The Urquhart Castle Action Group is delighted to announce that Council planners have recomended OBJECTION to the awful plans put forward by government quango Historic Scotland. All the information is available at: Nessie on the Net! http://www.lochness.co.uk with the lastest Castle news on http://www.lochness.co.uk/castle/latest.html

    The fight is not yet won but Historic Scotland are losing the initiative and we invite them to take their horrid ideas and leave Drumnadrochit. This environment and this community are too precious to be destroyed by greedy commercialism.

    Thank you Highland Council Planners.

    God willing, the Councillors will follow your advice in the planning meeting to be held at Urquhart Castle next Tuesday. The text that follows is more detailed information:

    urqurt02.gif - 36.1 K

    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!, 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. This 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). 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) just on the presumption that no one could stop their scheme.

    The Directors of Historic Scotland should 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 mess?

    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) recommends:

    "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..."

    The 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.

    drum01.gif - 42.5 K 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 quango'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? Our continued campaign will be making a formal complaint of MALADMINISTRATION to the European Ombudsman.

    Drumnadrochit, by Loch Ness, does not want to die and businesses here will work hard to help Historic Scotland make a shuttle bus work.

    webmaster - Nessie on the Net! In Scotland at http://www.lochness.co.uk

    Highlander Web Magazine supports this campaign fully, and to help bring these important issues to the WORLD, we will be teaming up with the Loch Ness site during the coming week to bring you up to date - LIVE!

    For more information on the LIVE updates - please read "Saving Urquhart Castle"