Culloden holiday park refused in 'courageous' move by councillors

Plans to build a holiday park within the historic boundary of Culloden Battlefield have been refused.

The head of the NTS, the conservation charity that owns around a third of the historic battlefield, including the memorial cairn (pictured),  has welcomed the 'wise decision' to reject a holiday park plan for the wider historic area. PIC: Julian Paren/geograph.org.
The head of the NTS, the conservation charity that owns around a third of the historic battlefield, including the memorial cairn (pictured), has welcomed the 'wise decision' to reject a holiday park plan for the wider historic area. PIC: Julian Paren/geograph.org.

The proposals for the old Treetops Stables site at Feabuie – which sits to the north of the section of battlefield owned by National Trust for Scotland – included 13 lodges and a 100-seat restaurant.

Planners at Highland Council recommended that the plans, which were originally refused in 2019, be passed on the second time of asking.

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But councillors unanimously rejected the proposals on several grounds, including that the plans “promoted unacceptable commercial activity within the boundary of Culloden Battlefield”.

Last night, Councillor Ron MacWilliam (SNP), proposed an amendment to refuse the application, which was seconded by Councillor Carolyn Caddick (Lib Dem).

It received unanimous support from their fellow members on the South Area Planning Committee at Highland Council.

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Councillor MacWilliam said: “Obviously, the battle took place over a very large area and we still to this day don’t know everything about it...you have to be reasonable where you are allowed to build.

"Culloden Battlefield is a site of national and international significance, it’s a major worldwide name and it needs to be protected. As a planning committee, we have a role in doing that.

"Culloden is a battlefield is a war grave, its a place of quiet and it is a place we have to attempt, to the best of our ability, to keep the integrity of the site and the area around about it intact, so that people now and in future generations can enjoy it, explore it and consider its history.”

The Treetops site sits around a mile north of the NTS-owned section of the battlefield and within both the Culloden Muir Conservation Area and the historic battlefield inventory.

Historians believe the land earmarked for development is where British Army “saddled up” ahead of the clash with the Jacobites in April 1746.

The Treetops application is the latest to be fought by the Group to Stop Development at Culloden.

A group statement said: “This was a couragous decision by Highland councillors in the face of poor planning advice from several statutory consultees that was concisely dismantled in a coherent, logical manner allowing a robust rebuttal of the recommendation to grant.

"GSDC calls on conservation-minded organisations to work together in finding a definitive solution to this seemingly never-ending torrent of new and repeated applications for developments on this site of national importance.”

Phil Long, chief executive of NTS, which objected to the holiday park proposals, said: “This is an excellent and wise decision by Highland Councillors and we commend them for it.

“The Treetop scheme was rejected once before and this latest application made no material change that would have lessened its baleful impact upon the wider historic battlefield within the Conservation Area."

He added: "We have to come together and find a middle way that does not prevent reasonable and appropriate development while preserving the essence of this sacred, internationally important place.”

Last month, Scottish Ministers overturned a recommendation by the Planning Reporter and blocked the building of a contemporary steading conversion at Culchunaig, just to the south of the NTS part of the battlefield.

Campaigners hailed a “momentous turnaround” but the applicants came back with a scaled-down proposal within days.

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