'˜We can't stop Culloden homes,' says Scottish Government
The original decision to allow 16 homes to be built on the edge of Culloden Battlefield cannot be reviewed, the Scottish Government has confirmed.
Historians this week urged Scottish ministers to look again at the decision to approve the development at Viewhill Farm amid claims the decision was based on incorrect information surrounding the 1746 battle and its geography.
Permission to build was granted on appeal in 2014 after Highland Council initially refused the plans.
Then Historic Scotland stated the land, which sits around half a mile north of the clan graves, did not form part of the core battlefield site.
However, Dr Christopher Duffy, an authority on the 1745 rebellion and member of the Historian’s Council on Culloden, said this week that the Viewhill Farm area was the scene of significant contact on April 16, 1746 with the land effectively a war grave.
The Scottish Government said today there was no opportunity for it to look again at the housing plan.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Decisions on applications for planning permission are primarily a matter for councils as the planning authority, in this case Highland Council. It would not be appropriate to comment on a live application.
“The reporter considered a wide range of evidence before making a decision in 2014, which is final and there is no opportunity for Ministers to revisit that decision.”
Widespread opposition has broken out against the Culloden homes after a new developer revived the building plan.
Small amendments to the original application were heard by members of a Highland Council planning committee this week.
Dr Duffy, speaking this morning, said the original decision to approve the housing was “ill informed”.
The author added: “We don’t want to be enemies of developers - we live in the 21st Century after all.
“Also, to have a moratorium on development on all sites were battles were fought is not realistic.
“It’s about a sense of proportion and recognising the unique importance of Culloden. What took place there has a national and international impact.
“Culloden also has a unique sense of place and offers a sense of what happened there.
“The maddening thing is that the battlefield is about 90 per cent intact. There are few battlefields where this is the case, including those of World War Two.
“To have a battlefield in Scotland that is essentially intact is absolutely remarkable.”
“There has been an obsession with the core area battlefield. What it does is leave the rest of the battlefield open to development.”
Dr Duffy said the battle array reached up through the present site of Viewhill Farm with the B9006 cutting through the centre of the battle lines.
The Viewhill Farm area likely saw heavy casualties towards the end of the battle, it is claimed.
A statement from the council of historians said: “Three days later, when the bodies of the fallen were finally allowed to be buried, exceptionally boggy and difficult ground lay between the dead of Viewhill and the pits dug for burial by the present-day cairn.
“It is likely, given common practice at the time and the difficulty of transporting the dead across to the pit graves, that those who were slain at Viewhill were not removed, but were either buried on site or allowed to rot there.
“The area of Viewhill Farm is therefore likely to be part of the war grave of Culloden.”
Councillors in Inverness were asked this week to choose between approving the amended plans for Viewhill Farm or rejecting them in favour of a redesign of the scheme.
The plans were approved, but two councillors claim to have voted the wrong way amid confusion at committee.
The application has now been referred for a fresh hearing at the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee on May 17 given doubts that the right decision was reached.
Councillors will then decide whether the homes at Viewhill Farm need to be redrawn to fit in with the sensitive site, which is now included in the Culloden Muir Conservation Area to reflect its significance during the battle.