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Live from Urquhart Castle

19h September 1996
- last updated 14:33 GMT -


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Saving The Castle!
The Urquhart Castle Action Group Page
and the Loch Ness pages on

Audio files | News reports courtesy Moray Firth Radio | Audio files

| DECISION JUST IN - 17:35 |

| Update 3 - 17:33 |

| Inverness Courier Headline - 17:11 |

| Update 2 - 14:33 | Update 1 - 14:21 |

| Progress report 3 - 14:55 | Progress report 2 - 13:30 | Progress report 1- 12:30 |

Urquhart Castle News from Moray Firth Radio.

moray.gif - 14.5 K Thanks to Moray Firth Radio for supplying us with their news coverage of the Urquhart Castle Campaign.

Based in Inverness - The award wining Moray Firth Radio up to the minute local and national news, music, special reports and advertising to the people of the Highlands of Scotland.


After a very long - very thorough meeting this afternoon, The decision was made - based on a 17-5 majority to AXE the Development proposal.

Any further proposals or development plans must be brought forward to a full public enquiry should they be presented.

Full report coming within the Hour!

Gordon Menzies - Speaking for the Urquhart Castle Action Group

Planning Issues

I am Gordon Menzies and live at Temple Pier from where I look directly at the Castle across Urquhart Bay. I am Drumnadrochit born and bread. I have been asked to speak on behalf of many of the local objectors.

This proposal started out as a solution to a traffic hazard. Visitors to the Castle cause congestion at a very dangerous point on a very busy road. We agree that a solution to the traffic problem must be found. The proposal before you does many things except guarantee to solve the traffic problem.

For that reason alone it is unacceptable.

Historic Scotland has not provided projections for visitor figures in support of its proposals, so we have had to make an estimate of our own. Based on their recently quoted figures it seems that there could be 250,000 per year by the first full year of operation (1999) and perhaps 300,000 per year by 2005. Given that the length of stay will be increased by the added facilities proposed merely trebling the parking capacity will be insufficient to meet demand in the first year and we are back where we started.

Your Development Control Policy No.7 says that following criteria will be taken account: The effect on services within existing communities Traffic safety and parking The effect on countryside amenity.

This proposal fails all four tests. Worst of all it clearly compromises the integrity of the Castle itself. The new car park surface would be level with top of the Tower. Thus its historical setting would be changed for ever. We note that construction is proposed to occur outwith the tourist season to avoid....what? Loss of income to Historic Scotland while prolonging the danger to the rest of us.

The essential Assessments which show whether the traffic problem might be solved, and for how long, the potential economic consequences, and the basic technical feasibility and safety of the proposed development all of which are essential to informed public debate have not been provided to us. Retailing philosophy and sewage plant leasing agreements were provided and advertised for 14 days. We feel that the important material should have been treated in the same way as the trivial.

Because these vital assessments are lacking we feel this meeting premature.

We cannot therefore support these proposals and we are delighted that the Councilís officials are of the same opinion. There are many other points which we would have mentioned but they are very ably covered in the Directorís comprehensive Planning Appraisal.

Urquhart Castle is a grade A listed building and guardianship Monument in the care of Historic Scotland. We contend that the open area above the Castle is an intrinsic and integral part of its environment and as such must be given the same protection. is proposal will totally destroy tat environment and if approved would be yet another example of abuse of those in care by those entrusted wit their care.

Historic Scotland appears to be confident that it can get away with this abuse as prior to this meeting it has had work carried out on this project with the construction of a contractors access and the new pedestrian path as shown on their plans.

Your long established principle of not allowing commercial development between the road and the Loch, is far sighted as well as vital to maintaining the amenity of the area on which so many livelihoods depend is worthy of continued support and must not be breached.

Yes, there is an urgent traffic problem but this is not an urgent solution. It will not show road safety benefits before the 1999 season by which time the problem could well have overtaken it again.

Scale down castle plan, urges MEP

Story from today's Inverness Courier - Tuesday 17th September

HIGHLANDS and Islands Euro MP Winnie Ewing has urged caution on a controversial Loch Ness-side proposal being considered by councillors today.

The long-serving member of the European Parliament spelt out her concerns to the Courier in advance of this afternoon's site visit and meeting regarding £2.5 million deveopment plans for Urquhart Castle - and claimed they would pose an extreme threat to Drumnadrochit traders.

The SNP president's comments - which follow lobbying from members of the Glen Urquhart community over the car park, restaurant and visitor centre proposals by castle custodians Historic Scotland - come in the wake of strong reservations recorded by Highland Council's planning director John Rennilson last week.

Mrs Ewing said that she had probed visitor figures for what is one of Scotland's top 10 tourist attractions and come to the conclusion that the level of commercial activity planned by Historic Scotland can only spell an extreme threat to the historic village of Drumnadrochit.

Between 1st April and 9th September this year, 200,000 people visited the castle whose 40-space car park has proved woefully inadequate in catering for peak time demand.

Historic Scotland has lodged plans for a visitor centre, 115 space car park and restaurant. The ultimate decision on the application lies with the Scottish Secretary.

More than 1,300 objections have been lodged with Highland Council which, as statutory planning authority, has been asked to comment on the plans. Thousands more comments - almost all voicing reservations about the plans - have been received via the Internet and been passed on to council chiefs.

Mrs Ewing said that to turn Urquhart Castle into a commercial activity with shops could only spell an extreme threat to the historic village of Drumnadrochit.

"I believe Objective One European funding can find better outlets," she said. "I'm worried about the effect on traders and the people who live in Drumnadrochit. I have checked the figures - it's one of the most visited places in Britain. It doesn't need to turn itself into a shopping centre. I believe they should think about the locals."

Mrs Ewing acknowledged she had received many representations on the matter. She said: "If people spend money at the castle, they won't spend it at Drumnadrochit. I think they need more parking spaces but I don't think they need all the commercial activity."

She suggested that congestion was a fact of life on many Highland roads and that applied to the whole of the A82 at certain times of the year.

Spending a large amount of money on a commercial development was not the solution to the problem, said Mrs Ewing who added : "When you have a fragile village you have to regard that as a priority."

Her comments to some extent mirror those of council planning directorMr Rennilson who recommends that the authority objects to the scale of the commercial development while welcoming attempts to improve access and egress at the site and the parking situation. He suggests that a tearoom would be more appropriate than a restaurant.

The councillor for the area, Pat Paterson, wants a working group involving Historic Scotland and members of the community to hammer out a compromise.

Historic Scotland will spell out its side of the argument at the castle this afternoon. that will be followed by a meeting of the planning committee in Drumnadrochit.

Historic Scotland last week pointed out to the increasing visitor numbers and said it was duty bound to deal with the problem.

Richard Frere - Speaking for the Urquhart Castle Action Group

An Environmental Issue

I am Richard Frere and I have lived with my family in Drumnadrochit for 36 years. I am the author of a successful book about the LOCH and have written a score of magazine and newspaper articles on the area.

It is obvious that the supply of water and treatment of sewage is of prime importance in a complex where the public will be involved. Any responsible organisation is aware that if it allows such things to fall below an acceptable standard it will be prosecuted and improvements legally enforced. And there this issue should end.

There is, however, another kind of environmental damage which goes right to the heart and soul of things and cannot be reversed. And this forms the basis of my complaint against Historic Scotlandís proposals for Urquhart Castle.

I maintain that the juxtaposition of a large and angular modern structure in glass and concrete with a stately 16th. century ruin is visually and morally repulsive. The proposed development has already aroused great indignation in those who respect this castle and its long history and who are furious that Historic Scotland, its self-styled guardians, are blatantly using it as a pawn in a game of profit. There is also a fear that the development will create a precedent for similar schemes, all more or less destructive to other areas of the lochís environment.

I consider that this ill-conceived project on Strone Point will produce an unnatural distortion of its topography and will leave, perhaps for years, the threats implicit in unstable rock and rubble. The spoil from the 1930ís improvements on the A82 left a scar which is still visible. I suspect that the proposed tree planting is less an amenity gesture than a commercial expedient aimed at preventing unpaid for glimpses of loch and castle. Also it is an anachorism for it is doubtful whether this slope has been afforested since distant Iron Age days when a vitrified fort with associated hut circles existed on and below the castle rock.

Should this development be allowed it will result in a further increase in numbers at the site. This, dare I say it, seems to me an example of unbridled greed? Tourism here, at 200,000 people at the last count, has already reached epidemic proportions. Individual interpretation of the monument or appreciation of its unique setting is no longer leisurely, and will soon be impossible with the castle environs as crowded as a Blackpool beach and as noisy and confused as the Tower of Babel.

It is certainly true that while footpaths and grass can be repaired ambience is a sensitive quality which is readily eroded and once lost can never be regained.

Once, apparently helplessly, we watched this happen along the river front in Inverness. Aping utilitarian American architecture of the Ď60s, well-loved Victorian houses were demolished to make way for faceless structures of ostentatiosly heart-chilling angularity. Now both the timeless river and the pleasant 19th. century castle are afronted.

It is a chilling reminder to those of us who are protesting against the prospect of a similar desecration at Urquhart Castle.

Alastair MacPherson - Speaking for the Urquhart Castle Action Group

Good Afternoon..... I'm Alastair MacPherson, I live and work locally, serve on the Community Council and on the Joint council A82 Working Group. I am presently Vice-Chairman of our local Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Association, and as such will read a short statement regarding the views of the Chamber.

"The Chamber of Commerce wishes to state that it is broadly in agreement with the reasons given by the Director of Planning to reject this proposal, and wishes to express its disappointment that Historic Scotland failed to give our shuttle bus option a trial." Speaking for the Urquhart Castle Action Group I wish to add that many local people are concerned that this scheme, comprising at least three commercial activities in addition to Historical Interpretation will compete directly with existing business in Lewiston and Drumnadrochit. Visitors who have been entertained, fed, toiletted and supplied with souvenirs at the castle will be less inclined to stop in a village five minutes down the road. And it doesn't matter which way visitors are heading...travelling south they will be unlikely to stop five minutes short of a well advertised attraction and travelling north those who have done the castle and bought the tee-shirt will not be likely to stop in our village at all.

Local economy will suffer, jobs will be lost and the number of overnight stays will reduce.

No Economic Impact Assessment relating to this proposal has been supplied by Historic Scotland in support of its plans. So in the absence of professional advice to the contrary, we are left with a common sense fear that visitor spending will simply be transferred from existing businesses to any new facilities at the castle.

"Development Options" report commissioned by I.N.E. stated in 1993 ... I quote: "A new 180 space car-park and visitor centre at Castle Urquhart would provide an alternative major attraction to Drumnadrochit itself. The implementation of such a proposal would damage the potential for developing Drumnadrochit as a centre for visitors" end of quote.

The proposals seem to be wholly contrary to the requirements of your Development Control Policy No.7 which seeks to direct development to existing communities. One way or another the economy of our village is linked closely with certain legends. Whether we like it or not this is what we are famous for world-wide. People come to Loch Ness to look at the Loch itself, and for north bound visitors Urquhart Castle used to be the first decent viewing place they could find.

We cannot believe that a major new visitor centre, on the shore of Loch Ness, being built with two empty wings in addition to what it needs for interpretation of the castle will not deal with the matter of the Loch's most famous inhabitant... We just don't believe it. Months ago, H.S. was saying it was content to leave dealings with the monster to others in Drumnadrochit. Now they are saying their shop will not sell Nessie memorabilia.... not quite the same thing...but what about the other shops in the centre?... to be franchised out....?

We haven't forgotten that in 1994 H.S. admitted that they would provide a home for 'Project Urquhart' i.e. another Loch Ness Exhibition. The Castle itself hardly merits such a massive project to have its story told, especially when so many of H.S.'s other sites of equal importance don't even merit an admission price. The H.S. publication called 'Urquhart Castle' tells the story of the place quite well. Half the book is taken up by. "A Short History of the Castle" - it runs to 50 column inches, less than a Ĺ page spread in the 'Inverness Courier' - so what will go into the centre? it is obvious - Historic Scotland, so keen to respond to public demand to gain access, can't then ignore public demand to find what they will naturally expect to find in such a Loch-side Centre. The inclusion of a well known fake photo in the guidebook along with question "who knows whether Nessie really exists or not is a rather shaky start.

I am delighted to find that we are in agreement with the director of planning in wishing to avoid setting a precedent for commercial development between the road and the loch and hope that you, our elected representatives are with us on this issue.

Thank you.

Progress Report 3 - 14:55

After some delay the meeting is now underway and we hope to bring you the first speaker in just a short while!

Three representatives will make the case on behalf of the Urquhart Castle Action Group - first up will be Alastair MacPherson who is the vice chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce. Then we will hear from Richard Frere, writer and author who lives in Drumnadrochit and then finaly from Gordon Menzies who has lived by Urquhart Castle all his life.

Progress Report 2 - 13:30

We have kindly been provided with the computer slides which some of the speakers will be using to help put their point across. These slides will be projected to all those at the meeting in order to graphicaly present their arguments.

We have been busy re-sizing most of these slides in order to bring them to the web - if you want to follow the slides simply click on the picture and the full size graphic will appear. To get back to the text just cl;ick the 'back' button on your browser.

Because we want to try and bring as much of the meeting as we can - No video for those who are asking, sorry - there will be a delay between when the speaker is finished and the upload of the page.

We hope to bring more pictures and audio later this afternoon, in the mean time you can keep up with proceedings and view the presentations as they happen by reloading the page.

Progress Report 1 - 12:30

During the past week Nessie on the Net and Highlander Web Magazine have been busy preparing for this afternoons meeting which will decide the fate of Urquhart Castle. This 'high profile' meeting will decide whether or not developers will go ahead with the proposal to build a 180 space car park, shop and restaurant.

Watching the events, as they happen, are our reporters who will bring you the latest developments and discussions taking place. Both sides of the dispute will be presented this afternoon and then the decision will be made. You can follow these reports via this page as we bring you pictures, displays and speeches from both sides.

The meeting will begin at 14:00 (GMT) this afternoon and to follow the proceedings all you need do is be here (this page) and press your 'reload' button every few minutes to catch the latest upload.

Next update in ONE hour.

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