Press Release 18 january 1998:
New Archaeological Report Must End Historic Scotland's
Multi-Million Pound Development Plans at Urquhart Castle
The Urquhart Castle Action Group (UCAG) today claims a "technical knockout" of Historic Scotland's development plans for the Castle and calls upon them to withdraw their appeal to the Secretary of State without further delay.
Acting on information leaked to a UCAG member, Mr. Alastair Macpherson, the group made urgent efforts to obtain a copy of a new archaeological report, which was commissioned by Historic Scotland. The report apparently sought to establish the effects that their proposed multi-million pound visitor centre, car & coach park, restaurant and shops would have upon Urquhart Castle.
Enquiries were made to Historic Scotland about the report, which was believed to be very damaging to their ambitions. It was understood that many historical artefacts and works were discovered at the site. A UCAG member, Mr. M. Takala, contacted the office of The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - the Rt. Hon. David Clarke MP and Minister with responsibility for introducing Labour's new "Freedom of Information Act". Dr. Clarke was informed of the existence of the report and both Highland Council and UCAG's wish to see it placed in the public domain as swiftly as possible.
UCAG is delighted to announce that, further to contacting Dr. Clarke's office, the report has now been officially distributed to Highland Council and UCAG. The report makes extensive reading, running to some 50 pages. The report should now put an end to any prospect of further development at Urquhart Castle. UCAG wishes to point out that it has been asking for a detailed archaeological report for several years and, had one been commissioned earlier a great deal of tax payer's money would have been saved.
A number of exploratory trenches were excavated around the Castle and Trench 9 is identified as containing a large ditch, which is considered "a significant archaeological feature".
The report further states:
"This ditch lies within the proposed development area and any ground disturbance could adversely effect it. The ditch may prove to be an important addition to the present state of knowledge of the extra-mural activity that occurred during the Medieval period at Urquhart castle."
The report goes on to list artefacts and bones which were discovered and calls for further detailed exploration to assist with the understanding of "a period of great unrest in the Highlands in which the castle was besieged several times."
Historic Scotland is appealing to the Secretary of State for Scotland for permission to proceed with its development. Highland Council has repeatedly rejected its plans, both in Planning Committee and in Full Council. Both Highland Council and the Secretary of State were sent thousands of letters and messages condemning Historic Scotland's plans. The tremendous international response was generated by an Internet campaign to save the Castle, run by "Nessie on the Net!" at http://www.lochness.co.uk
UCAG points out that Historic Scotland is an unelected quango that is obliged to operate under its own remit "We Safeguard the Nation's Built Heritage and Promote Its Understanding and Enjoyment". This remit is completely incompatible with actions that could seriously damage important archaeological remains.
The new report must end any ambitions for development at Urquhart Castle and, by accepting this inevitability now, Historic Scotland can save the tax payer large sums of money that would be spent on a Public Enquiry and possible Judicial Review.
UCAG further points out that several possibilities exist for an off-site solution to Historic Scotland's car parking problem and calls upon it to enter into immediate multi-lateral discussions with both UCAG and others.
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