INTRODUCTION

 

The first issue is to determine the appropriate test to be applied. 1 agree with Mr Patrick that the test is that contained in Section 25 of the Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 which requires that the determination be made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The development plan, of course, includes both the Structure Plan and the Local Plan.

 

Dealing first with the Local Plan, it is my submission that little weight should now be given to the policy in paragraph 4.42 for the following reasons:

 

i.                     It is almost seven years since the Local Plan was adopted. By any standard this policy is now old and the weight to be accorded to the policy at this time depends upon events which have occurred since the policy was adopted'.' The exhaustive consideration which has been given to the current proposal clearly supersedes the policy. The fact that the Council have had three hearings procedures into this proposal and its predecessor and on each occasion have effectively decided that material considerations outweigh the Local Plan policy clearly demonstrate the fact that it is no longer a relevant planning policy and that applying the test in Section 25, the policy is clearly outweighed by other material planning considerations.

 

 

 

ii.          The fact that this policy apparently was not objected to at the time of the Local

 

Plan preparation and consequent Public Inquiry yet the current proposal has

attracted the level of opposition demonstrated at this Inquiry clearly shows that

time has moved on since the policy was adopted and the planning system must

be sufficiently dynamic and responsive to reflect changes in attitude over the

lifetime of local plans.

 

iii.         In any event, a careful reading of paragraph 4.42 would lead you to believe

 

that what is proposed was additional parking together with a Visitor Reception

Centre "to replace the temporary ticket office". The scale of the development,

the subject of this Inquiry is greater than could reasonably have been foreseen

by paragraph 4.42 and the associated policy.

 

Structure Plan

 

"Sustainability" is a key objective and theme throughout the Structure Plan (and is now firmly entrenched in government policy). 1 refer particularly to policies P.98 and P.99. In my view there is ample evidence to find that this development is contrary to both of these policies and that in itself is sufficient to indicate that this proposal does not accord with the Development Plan.

 


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The Options Exercise

 

 

In my view the options appraisal carried out by Historic Scotland is flawed for the following reasons:

 

I. It can be clearly seen from page 33 of HC.11 that the options appraisal concluded that only those options within the land owned and controlled by Historic Scotland at Urquhart Castle could be financed, controlled and managed in a satisfactory fashion. It also states "It was an over‑riding consideration by Historic Scotland that all other off‑site options would constitute development outwith Historic Scotland's core functions ". Therefore in my submission, at a stroke this options appraisal is significantly devalued and attention is focused back on the land

between the Castle and the A82 which Historic Scotland have now acquired. It is my contention that the perceived restriction on Historic Scotland's powers to acquire land is incorrect. Sections 10, 11 and 15 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 permit the Secretary of State or a local authority to acquire ancient monuments or land adjoining or in the vicinity of an ancient monument which is reasonably required for providing or facilitating access to the monument, exercising proper control and management in respect

of a monument or the provision of facilities and services for the public for or in connection with affording public access to the monument. Even if I am wrong, Section 189 of the Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997

allows a local authority to acquire compulsorily any land which is required in order to secure the carrying out of development, redevelopment or improvement or, is required for a purpose which it is necessary to achieve in

the interests of the proper planning of an area. Mr MacIlwraith in cross examination acknowledged that he was aware of this power. The future of this

 

 


monument should not be compromised by any perceived lack of power on the part of Historic Scotland, a matter which 1 will return to later in this submission. In conclusion to this subsection of this closing submission 1 would simply refer the Reporter to HS 16, "Appraisal of Capital Options" page 2 which indicates that in March 1996 "HS purchase Mrs Chewitt's land to enable scheme". That in my submission clearly demonstrates on the face of it, as at March 1996 Historic Scotland had committed themselves to this scheme and that any appraisal carried out thereafter must have had as a primary consideration achieving that which that which they had already set their minds to.

 

ROAD TRAFFIC ISSUES

 

Car Park Capacity

 

On the basis of the evidence, 1 would invite you to find as a fact that in peak periods, demand will exceed supply by 2008 and perhaps even earlier depending upon growth in visitor numbers and traffic flows. In my submission that should be a clear finding of fact and the whole burden of evidence in relation to car park capacity amply justifies such a finding. In my submission this indicates quite clearly that what is proposed will ameliorate matters for a short time only during a substantial part of which there will be considerable disruption due to the envisaged 27 month construction period. This development does not provide a long term solution.to the difficulties caused by car parking.

 


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Visibility Splays

 

Visibility splays attracted a considerable amount of evidence. 1 would refer you particularly to production HS‑37 from Ken Wilson Associates wherein design speed was assessed using the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges and which concluded that the design speed was between 44 and 55 mph "say 50 mph or 85 at kph". Yet in Mr Carrie's evidence at 2. 10, he initially stated that the design speed lay at 44 mph but in cross examination acknowledged that that was not what Ken Wilson's letter of 1 l` June said. Thus, in my submission in accordance with the design calculation, we immediately have a significant potential variation in design speed between 44 and 55 mph. The speed survey carried out on 1 91h June indicated an eighty fifth percentile speed of 43 mph. Significant evidence was led in relation to the

possibility of the eighty fifth percentile speed varying according to traffic volumes.

 

That is particularly relevant to the A82 where, according to Mr Inglis' evidence traffic figures vary from a January Daily Flow of 1540 vehicles per day to an August Daily Flow of 53 10 vehicles.. Again, in relation to the "X" distance, that can be relaxed from 9 metres to 4.5 metres for "lightly trafficked simple junctions" yet there is no definition of "lightly trafficked". What 1 conclude from this evidence is that theoretical speed calculations, actual speed surveys and engineers' subjective views on whether a junction is "lightly trafficked" do not in themselves provide the answer here. They may all be useful aids but at the end of the day sound judgement and common sense must apply.

 

1 would invite you to adopt the description in paragraph 2.23 of the Local Plan wherein it states that the A82 "is severely deficient in terms of alignment, gradients and visibilities within the Plan area". This statement is now almost 8 years old and there have been no changes in relation to the A82 in the vicinity of Urquhart Castle in

 


f

 

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that time (other than the new footpath) yet traffic flows and visitor numbers have increased substantially and both continue to grow. If this statement was true in 1991 (and the National Roads Directorate did not object to it at the time and nor did the Secretary of State call the Plan in) then it must have even greater weight now. It is also a fact that the national speed limit of 60 mph applies to this section of road which accommodates Scotland's third most visited tourist attraction. An added but very important ingredient in traffic movements at this location is the fact that much of the traffic is tourist traffic which will be unfamiliar with the area and indeed may be used to driving on the opposite side of the road. There will still be awkward bends even after the development is complete and 1 submit it still remains unclear what the eighty fifth percentile speed will be after completion. Significant weight should be given to the views of regular users of the road and 1 would draw your attention specifically to the junction manoeuvres at Lundie Cottages. All of this leads me to invite you, Sir to accept that the plain statement in condition 5 of the TR/NPA/2 dated 27` June 1997 requiring visibility splays of 9 x 215 metres is the standard which should be sought at this junction, notwithstanding the complex explanation elicited from Mr Inglis in cross examination and not proffered in evidence in chief nor produced.

 

In conclusion in this section, 1 submit that no long term solution to the Roads and Transport issues will be achieved by implementation of this development although it is acknowledged that there may well be short term gains, the duration of which will be constrained between the construction phase and 2008 at the latest. 1 would also refer you to the evidence of Superintendent Ramsay McGee who endorsed the need to find a long term solution.

 


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SCALE AND IMPACT OF DEVELOPMENT

 

In my submission this development will have, for all practical purposes, an irreversible impact on the landscape. It is for you, Sir to assess whether that impact is beneficial, neutral or detrimental. In my submission, the impact cannot be neutral and therefore it must be either beneficial or detrimental. In my submission, substantial weight should be given to the fact that the Council held three hearings procedure meetings including a meeting on site at which they had the benefit of viewing scaffolding, albeit of NOP1) 1. Furthermore, the area is nationally and internationally renowned. There can be no doubt that there will be a significant change in the environment and setting of the Castle. If there is any risk that the impact will be detrimental then in my submission, that is sufficient for applying the precautionary principle and refusing permission for this development. One of the most telling elements of evidence was from John Wood, the Council's Archaeologist who suggested that you compare the footprint of the proposed development with the footprint of the Castle itself. As will have been seen from the site inspection, the alteration to the slope will come within some 30 metres from the scheduled monument itself. One only needs to look at the difference between the evidence of Mr Sampson and the Secretary of State's own Landscape Adviser, Scottish Natural Heritage to see the breadth of differences of opinion that this matter can generate. Mr Patrick agreed with me when I put it to him that SNH seemed to be "sitting on the fence". However, this is a matter upon which we cannot sit on the fence. If there is likely to be a detrimental effect on the setting of the Castle, then this development should not be allowed. This is not a matter which is capable of scientific assessment and in my view, the considered majority view of the Highland Council should be given very considerable weight indeed. The fact that this development will alter the profile of the

 


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slope and thereby alter the understanding of the setting of the Castle is in itself sufficient to refuse permission. In support of this very important argument 1 refer to the The Royal Fine Art's Commission written submission to this Inquiry which should be given very considerable weight indeed.

 

EFFECT ON DRUMNADROCHIT

 

1 will deal with this briefly by referring to the INE Report which can be found at HS7 which indicated displacement effects of a turnover reduction of between 7 and 11 per cent in the year the Castle development opens and an average reduction of between 4 and 7 per cent for local retailers of tourist merchandise, albeit in the medium to long term these effects are "likely" to be reversed. 1 would refer you to the evidence of Mr Beech for justification for finding that the development would be contrary to development control policy No. 7.

 

ARCHAEOLOGY

 

The archaeology questions have never been placed before the Council but it is my submission that they certainly should have been one of the issues which the Council was required to weigh in the balance. Had Historic Scotland properly obeyed paragraph 25 of NPPG 5, an appropriate archaeological assessment would have been carried out at the correct time. The evidence clearly indicates that this did not happen and the Headland Report was only produced some months after the Council took its final decision on this issue. This is to say the least, unfortunate. It is entirely possible that had an appropriate archaeological assessment been carried out at the correct time, that may in itself have been sufficient to dissuade Historic Scotland from proceeding

 


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with this particular scheme. I would refer you to Mr Bridgeland's evidence and in particular, his evidence in cross examination. The existence of the findings in trench 9 are highly significant. Government policy in my submission, presumes in favour of preservation in situ of important archaeological remains. NPPG 5 stresses the important of preserving scheduled ancient monuments within an appropriate setting. Because of the failure to comply with NPPG 5 and the fact that the Council have never had an opportunity of considering the archaeological issues raised by the Headland Report, I am not in a position to give a formal statement of the Council's position. At various stages during the Inquiry, Mr Anderson has put it to witnesses that questions of archaeology are now for you, Sir. I feel 1 must stress that 1 have to reserve the Council's position in relation to that issue. 1 would not wish my silence to be taken as acquiescence that Mr Anderson is indeed correct. There clearly is an issue here about the Council taking a decision in the absence of information about a material planning matter. 1 do not make any submission one way or the other but reserve the Council's position in relation this matter. It may indeed be that the boundary of the scheduled monument should be extended to include trench 9. Failure to carry out the appropriate procedures at the appropriate time should not be seen as a reason for not now dealing with the archaeological remains appropriately.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

This is a complex case involving one of the most important historical monuments of Scotland. The process whereby we have arrived at this position has been long and tortuous but in my view, it has not been as comprehensive or as considered as it should have been. The lack of clarity arises right from the outset of Historic Scotland's Project Aims as referred to in para.5 of Mr MacIlwraith's precognition.

 


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Improving road safety, enhancing visitor understanding and enjoyment and incorporating retail, tea‑room and washroom facilities were all cited as being the main project aims. It was during cross examination that the fact that there required to be a return on capital was accepted. That appears to have been government policy and it is clearly not for me or this Inquiry to question that. However, it is demonstrative of the fact that this important ingredient in the equation was only alluded to very briefly in examination in chief and required to be given into evidence in cross examination. The fact that in my submission, Historic Scotland have proceeded upon a misunderstanding of the powers available to them in relation to acquiring land by compulsory purchase if necessary and the fact that they have bought the land between the A82 and the Castle have not been helpful in producing an objective assessment of the needs of this critically important site for Scotland. Accurate visitor numbers, particularly in relation to those wishing to visit the site as compared to those who wish to simply view the site from a distance, or indeed view the Loch itself would be very helpful.

 

The National Roads Directorate, Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Scotland are all agents of the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is my submission that a better solution could well be arrived at if these three agencies worked together along with other interested parties including the Council, to objectively examine all of the problems and potential solutions. It was Mr Liddle in re‑examination who asked Mr Inglis to affirm that there was no link between the National Roads Directorate and Historic Scotland. In my submission, this is demonstrative of the problem. This monument should not be irreversibly altered because of a failure on the part of all interested parties at this stage to thoroughly and comprehensively identify the


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problems, consider the options and through the use of powers available to local and national government, produce a long term solution which will benefit tourists and road users yet not compromise the integrity and landscape setting of the monument and its surrounding archaeology. The Council have demonstrated their willingness previously to participate in finding a solution and 1 am sure that the Council remain willing to participate in any other process which the Secretary of State may wish to set up to produce a long term sustainable solution to this problem as opposed to the current proposal which, in my view, will irreversibly affect the setting of the monument, irreversibly affect one of the most famous views in the world and provide at best, a short term amelioration of the undoubted traffic problems on the A82.

 

In my submission, the Secretary of State for Scotland should not authorise this proposed development.

 

A F Simpson Highland Council 15th June 1998