An unholy row over the removal of a stone-built cemetery wall has inflamed a Highland community.
Residents claim there was a distinct lack of public consultation before the heavily weathered 200-year-old structure at the rear of the sacred site, at Craig Mhor at Onich, Lochaber, was uprooted to be replaced by modern fencing.
Nether Lochaber Community Council chairman Iain Jenner described it as “a travesty” that local residents, some of whom have relatives buried in the graveyard, were not part of any debate on the issue.
Speaking yesterday, he said: “In this age of community empowerment, the council should have consulted the Church of Scotland and the community council.
“They could have employed a professional drystone waller who would knock out three metres a day for probably £250.”
Local Highland councillor Andrew Baxter pursued the issue after yesterday’s Lochaber area committee meeting in Fort William.
“I asked whether the stone could be saved so the community could look at preserving it for a local project but we’ve learned that it was disposed of,” he said.
“I also asked for a halt to the post and wire fence going in, again to give the community an opportunity to install a proper stone wall but apparently it’s too late.
“I’m really disappointed that we’ve missed a trick by not getting the community involved.”
He said a colleague had argued that it did not matter because the wall was not visible from the road.
But Mr Baxter maintained that the three other sides of this cemetery are built in “glorious stone, befitting of the local architecture”.
He said replacing it with post and wire fence “ruins the integrity of the whole area.”
In terms of more costly stone work, he said the council used that as “an excuse” when the community had offered to provide local skills to undercut the price quoted by council officers.
A spokeswoman for the council said: “The work was necessary due to health and safety as the wall backs onto a neighbouring property. The neighbours were consulted and are happy with the solution.
“The contractor is on site this week and we expect the work to be completed by Friday.”