New battle lines drawn up at Culloden

Purple marks the new boundary, red marks the former boundary
Purple marks the new boundary, red marks the former boundary

An invisible shield has been agreed to greater protect the heritage and sanctity of Culloden Battlefield.

Inverness councillors yesterday unanimously approved the new boundary, encompassing an area almost five times that of the existing buffer zone around the sacred site, to protect it from major development.

A protest group that drew support from across the world for such a boundary last night hailed the decision “fantastic.”

It was backed after the first formal review in 47 years to the existing conservation area.

The new “battle line” will now be advertised and Scottish Ministers notified about the revised rules governing the site of the last pitched battle fought on British soil.

A 2,423-acre exclusion zone will replace the existing 536-acre conservation area.

George Kempik, a founder of the Stop Development at Culloden campaign that collected 16,000 signatures on a petition against 16 homes proposed for nearby Viewhill by local landowner David Sutherland, said: “It’s a fantastic piece of news. We’re obviously jubilant about this decision.

“We’re thankful that all the hard work of the group may have been instrumental in this greater protection of the battlefield actually happening.

“We hope that this will stop any other such development ever happening there again. We have to keep our eyes very firmly on what’s going to happen at Viewhill. It’s still a concern for us.”

Although permission was granted for the homes, none has been built. It is understood an announcement regarding the development site is imminent.

Local independent councillor Jim Crawford, who was instrumental in a six-year campaign to secure the wider protection, joined a celebration of the decision at an Inverness City Committee meeting at the Town House.

“We’re not saying to people you cannot build within this boundary. We’re saying if you are to build, you’ll build responsibly within that area,” he said.

SNP member Ken Gowans, who is equally passionate about conserving the area, said: “It’s incumbent upon us to protect the battlefield and its surrounds for future generations. But it’s also incumbent on us to protect it for past generations because we should also remember Culloden itself is a graveyard.

“It attracts visitors from around the world who make pilgrimages to Culloden and it should be treated as a place of reverance and respect.”

He thanked local residents, the council’s conservation officer Kerry Hawthorne and the thousands of people who backed the “Stop Development at Culloden” protest group that was founded because of specific planning proposals for the area.

“They have raised the profile of the threats to Culloden,” councillor Gowans added.

City leader and provost Helen Carmichael shared their delight.

She said: “I am pleased that we now have a conservation and management plan in place that will help to protect one of our most valuable cultural and tourism assets in the Highlands.

“This will help guide current and future planners. It will not be static, as the council has a duty to notify the public of any future proposals to preserve or enhance the conservation area.”

1746 battle

The 1746 battle ended with the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart being crushed by the Duke of Cumberland’s government forces. It lasted barely an hour but claimed more than 1,000 lives.

The expanded conservation status for Culloden means that planning permission will be required for a far wider range of development including house extensions, satellite dishes, boundary enclosures such as walls and fences, and alteration to windows and doors in order to conserve the area’s character.

Substantial alteration or demolition of unlisted buildings within the boundary will also require conservation area consent.

Under the existing provisions, the recently rebranded government agency Historic Environment Scotland must be consulted on any application for development within the Battlefield inventory area.

If it objects and Highland Council is minded to approve, the proposal will be referred to Scottish Ministers for them to call in the application if they deem it necessary.

The conservation area has been reviewed along with all others in Highland.