‘Housing needs outweigh benefits of standing stone’

A planning decision to build a house and garage in Ballantrushal in Lewis has been referred to Scottish Ministers after councillors went against advice that it should be refused.

By Peter Urpeth
Monday, 5th July 2021, 2:57 pm
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 4:11 pm
Council went against advice that plans for the new house be refused
Council went against advice that plans for the new house be refused

Historic Environment Scotland a government agency and a statutory consultee on planning matters, had objected to the proposed development.

The applicant had submitted plans, according to a report before the Planning Board, to erect a single storey dwelling house with an attached garage, on a site extending to a third of an acre at 3B Ballantrushal.

The Clach an Truiseil standing stone, the report stated, “stands on slightly more elevated ground just 76 metres to the south west of the proposed house”, and is a Designated Scheduled Monument.

The report added: “The Lewisian Gneiss stone stands at a height of some 5.75m above the ground and is one of the tallest standing stones in Scotland. The monument is of national historic importance, attracts interest from both local and tourists and is readily accessible.”

The report concluded: “The proposed house is at an elevation and in a position and laid out in a way that would introduce an obtrusive element that would have undesirable impact.”

HES also claimed that “no details” had been provided by the applicant “to demonstrate why other potential sites nearby would not represent reasonable practical alternatives to the proposed site”, and said that revised plans that would lower the level of the house by 750mm, “would not satisfactorily address these concerns.”

HES concluded: “The limited social and economic benefits of the proposed development, together with the absence of harm in other respects, would be clearly outweighed by the significant harm identified to the historic environment.

“The proposal would not represent sustainable development and would be contrary to Outer Hebrides Local Development Plan Policy NBH5, the Scottish Planning Policy and the Historic Environment Policy, due to its significantly harmful impact on the setting of the Clach an Truiseil Scheduled Monument.”

But councillors on the Planning Board disputed HES’s claims and rejected HES’s assertion that the setting of the stone would be adversely impacted by the development.

Councillors were told in the meeting that there had been no objections other than the statutory objections to the plans.

Councillor Calum McMillan, South Uist, questioned HES’s description of the economic and social benefits of the development and said: “The socio-economic benefit of having provision of rural housing and families in the area far outweighs any objection from HES.”

He proposed an amendment that “the application be granted subject to appropriate conditions (to be determined by the Director for Communities) as the development would not have an adverse impact on the setting of Clach an Truiseil and the proposed development is supported by the socio and economic benefits a new home would contribute to the wider area.” The amendment was unanimously agreed by the planning board.