Scotland ‘risks irrecoverable loss of heritage’ to developers

National Trust for Scotland staff link arms at Culloden as the organisation calls for greater protection of historic sites in the the planning system. Picture: Contributed.
National Trust for Scotland staff link arms at Culloden as the organisation calls for greater protection of historic sites in the the planning system. Picture: Contributed.
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Scotland is risking the “irrecoverable loss” of some of the country’s most historic and cherished natural sites to development given weaknesses in the planning system, it has been claimed.

National Trust for Scotland has ramped up its calls for better protection of Scotland’s heritage as a new Planning Bill gathers pace at Holyrood.

Chief executive Simon Skinner, chief executive of NTS, claimed the new legislation signalled a “point of no return” for the conservation of historic sites such as Culloden Battlefield.

He questioned whether existing designations had any weight in protecting sensitive sites from development.

Sixteen new homes are to be built within the Culloden Muir conservation area with a further four applications recently lodged, including one for a holiday park and 100-seat restaurant.

Meanwhile, a golf course has been approved at Coul Links near Embo, Sutherland, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Mr Skinner said: “Culloden and the Coul Links are just two examples of a worrying trend: Scotland’s heritage is too often being cast aside for short-term economic gain. Four years ago, we argued for a planning framework which has the long-term wellbeing of our heritage sites built into it. That can only be achieved by overhauling the current diffuse focus on individual planning applications in isolation.”

Mr Skinner also highlighted the SSSI status of Foveran Links in Aberdeenshire, now the site of a Trump International golf course.

He added: “The forthcoming Planning (Scotland) Bill is the point of no return for Scotland’s heritage: it could either prove to be the saviour of some of our most special places or the prelude to their irrecoverable loss. We only need to look to Bannockburn and Foveran Links as examples of development trumping reasonable conservation measures.”

NTS also wants Scotland’s most significant battlefields given greater protection through a listed building-style scheme which classes sites in terms of historical importance.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said responsibility for planning lay primarily with local authorities.

She added: “We’re committed to ensuring we have a planning system that works for everyone, recognises the special significance of sites and ensures local communities have a say in their future.”