ALASTAIR GRAY’S MURAL OF THE FALLS OF CLYDE MUST BE PROTECTED

 

Alistair Gray (1969; restored 2010) Kirfieldbank Mural
A detail of Alasdair Gray’s Kirkfieldbank Mural 

I was deeply saddened by the news that the author and artist Alasdair Gray died earlier today.

Alastair Gray was responsible for the magnificent Kirkfieldbank Mural – an acrylic and oil painting on plaster that takes up the entire length of the wall in the Kirkfieldbank Tavern (most recently known as the Riverside Tavern, but I believe to be currently closed).

The mural captures the full panorama of the Falls of Clyde stretching from Tinto (the hill that dominates the skyline) to the mill village of New Lanark. En route, it captures the walled garden of the Bonnington Estate, the View House, Cora Linn, and Corehouse as well as the pipes leading to Bonnington power station.

In his book, A Life in Pictures (Canongate, 2010) Mr Gray explained:

I had visited the Clyde Falls … on one of the rare weekends when the dam serving Bonnington power station is raised. This lets the whole river plunge over Bonnington Linn and, after pouring for a mile along a very deep gorge, plunge over Cora Linn. Thus I had seen these as they had been when famous in history before the power station came in the 1920s. William Wallace had used the gorge as a hiding place after starting the war for Scottish independence. David Dale and Robert Owen, humane factory owner and the founder of Co-operative Socialism, had used the falls to drive the machines in their model industrial village of New Lanark. I had seen them as Coleridge, the Wordsworths, Turner and most Scottish landscape painters saw them. I wanted to put all this good scenery into my mural.” (pp. 140-141)

This explanation captures perfectly the intimate relationship between New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde that Historic Scotland had promoted in its nomination document to have New Lanark inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, but eluded its leaden-footed bureaucrats a few years later when they stubbornly refused to protect this landscape from Cemex’s planning application to turn it into an open cast mine.

Alasdair Gray opposed Cemex’s planning application. He signed one of our pro-forma objection letters when he passed our house, Mid Lodge (also captured in the mural). He told The Times:

“I go for walks from New Lanark with friends, and up to the Falls and down the other side of the river… This is a wonderful place. I find the whole idea of the quarry shocking.” (16 February, 2013).

Mr Gray kindly gave me permission to use this detail of his mural in an article that I wrote for a special issue of Scotland’s Gardens and Landscape Heritage’s journal, The Pleasaunce.

The Kirkfieldbank Mural was almost lost when it was papered over, but was rediscovered by a new owner who commissioned Gray to restore it in 2009-10. Particularly given Gray’s status as Scotland’s leading literary figure of the 20th century, it is essential that this work of art is protected and preserved, as should the landscape he clearly loved. Both are parts of Scotland’s too often fragile heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINISTERS SAY “NO” TO CEMEX – AGAIN

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Children were among the 6,767 people who sent postcards to Nicola Sturgeon asking her government to save the Falls of Clyde

On 18 February we received the very welcome news that Scottish Ministers will once again refuse Cemex permission to quarry the area around the Falls of Clyde, which form part of the Buffer Zone of the New Lanark World Heritage Site.

The less controversial “southern extension” outside this area, to which we did not object, will be allowed, subject to the agreement of planning conditions. In this regard it will be important to ensure that the setting of Boathaugh is protected.

This takes us back to the position in 2015, when Ministers first ruled against the extension into the Buffer Zone. Then Cemex led UNESCO to believe that it accepted the decision, only for the company to launch a last-minute appeal to the Court of Session. The Scottish Government did not contest this, and the case was referred back to a Reporter and another public hearing was held in February 2018.

Ministers’ decision means that Cemex’ appeal has wasted thousands of pounds of its shareholders’ money, the taxpayers’ money, and the money of the objector’s group, and has achieved precisely nothing, other than to harden public and political opposition to the scheme.

Meanwhile the area around the Falls of Clyde has been neglected.

Outside the SWT reserve the effect of the quarry application has been to blight initiatives to improve footpaths or take other initiatives to enhance the Falls of Clyde Designed Landscape.

In 2013 the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP) told us that our proposals for a new footpath would have to wait the outcome of the quarry case.

But CAVLP has come and gone. That opportunity has been missed – although there will be others.

We hope that Cemex is now prepared to give up on its ever more unpopular campaign against Scotland’s heritage and communities. However, it has issued a rather sniffy statement complaining bitterly about the outcome and stating that it is considering its options, including legal action.

So we shall have to wait and see – something that we have become used to.

Time to end the jiggery-pokery and for Scottish Ministers to say “NO!” to Cemex

 

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It is now up to Scottish Ministers to decide whether the internationally recognised landscape around the Falls of Clyde should be saved for the benefit of future generations or disappear forever under Cemex’s bulldozers.

Last week, the Reporter (planning inspector) appointed to examine the planning application, delivered her recommendations to Ministers.

The area in question is part of the Buffer Zone of the New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Falls of Clyde Designed Landscape.

This is an area that Historic Scotland described as being “intimately bound up with the value of the [New Lanark World Heritage] site” in the nomination for World Heritage Status.

But, when Cemex, came calling, Historic Scotland decided that the area was of little value after all, preferring instead to facilitate the application and hope that UNESCO wouldn’t notice. (Yes, Historic Scotland initially thought there was no need to inform – let alone consult – UNESCO.)

This is an area that South Lanarkshire Council once promised to “protect, preserve and enhance” as the “setting” of the World Heritage Site.

But when Cemex came calling, the Council altered its planning policies, conveniently deciding that the area no longer represented the setting of the World Heritage Site, so it didn’t matter if it were to be destroyed. (The council’s proposals map labelled the Buffer Zone as the “setting” of the World Heritage Site, something that we confirmed with the council. But after public consultation had ended, the council decided that the labelling had been a “mistake”.)

This is an area that UNESCO described as being a “vital component of the Outstanding Universal Value” of New Lanark in 2014 when it formally expressed concern about the application – only for the last set of Reporters to advise Ministers that they needn’t worry about this because “expressions of concern do not automatically mean that the site is placed on the ‘in danger’ list.” (No matter that the “expression of concern” took the form of a formal “decision” at the meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee which reviews the management of World Heritage Sites. And clearly there was no need to consider that UNESCO might just have the edge in terms of World Heritage expertise.)

This is a planning application objected to by 11,500 visitors to the Falls of Clyde – whose clearly expressed opinions were dismissed by the last set of Reporters as mistaken in their assessment. The Reporters did however note the “eight submitted letters of support to the proposal” without any suggestion that these submissions were mistaken. (Yes, that’s right: 8! For every letter in support of the quarry, there were more than 1,400 against.)

This is an area that Cemex, planners and reporters alike decided needed to be destroyed to keep the construction industry going – only for output to fall to levels that we advised were likely at the time of the last hearing in 2014. (Emeritus Professor Boulton of Edinburgh University estimated that there are 500 million tonnes of sand and gravel in South Lanarkshire. Understandably, quite how a spatial planning policy ends up entertaining the extraction of 3 million tonnes from an area with the highest (Category 1) protective designation is something that many people find difficult to grasp.)

Perhaps most importantly of all for the integrity of Scottish Ministers and the planning system they manage, Donald Dewar in his capacity as the First Minister of Scotland signed the nomination document clearly stating that planning policy “prevents its [Hyndford quarry’s] expansion of workings  into the buffer zone.”

The last set of Reporters in complete contradiction to the evidence said that this was no “assurance” at all and was in any case “not relevant” to the decsion. So “prevents” means “allows”, “no” means “yes”, and integrity in public life doesn’t matter at all.

For all these reasons, and many more, it’s time for Scottish Ministers to come down firmly on the side of the people of Scotland and for Scotland’s heritage, and provide an emphatic “NO” to Cemex.

BONNINGTON PAVILION FACES AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

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Bonnington Pavilion (also known as Bonnington View House)

Bonnington Pavilion (or Bonnington View House) is of great historic significance.

But it is under threat from long-term neglect and a proposal by Scottish Power to construct a permanent access road to the adjacent surge tank.

Built in 1708 by Sir James Carmichael it is the oldest building in Scotland constructed solely for pleasure. The Pavilion, also known as the View House, overlooks Corra Linn on one side and the Bonnington Parkland on the other. Historic Scotland described the effect as being “an explicit visual dialogue between the ordered beauty of the park on the one hand, and the wild grandeur of the gorge on the other.”

The Pavilion lies within both the New Lanark Conservation Area, and the Buffer Zone of the UNESCO New Lanark World Heritage Site. It is one of the Category A Listed Buildings that led Historic Scotland to assess the area’s architectural features as being “outstanding” – along with the scenary a key justification for entering the Falls of Clyde into the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes (which signifies national importance). Indeed, Historic Environment Scotland’s listing describes the Pavilion itself has being of “outstanding national significance” in its own right.

Plans to restore it have been mooted in reports commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust over the past 20 years.

Yet none of these ambitions have come to anything and is indicative of the failure of the partners in the New Lanark World Heritage Site to manage its setting with any diligence or vision.

Instead the building is neglected, and as a consequence is deteriorating visibly.

Neglect

Owned by Scottish Power (since 2006 a subsidiary of the Spanish utility company, Iberdrola),  two trees can be seen growing from the structure, and need to be removed by experts before further damage occurs. Recent fallen masonry litters its floor.

Surrounding trees are not managed, so the intended views of Corra Linn are obscured by foliage.

There has been a gradual growth of unsightly industrial paraphernalia, such as ugly railings, around the View House.

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The ugly railings around the Pavilion were erected by Scottish Power ca. 2007 during a major refurbishment of the hydro station.

I have reported my concerns about the condition of the Pavilion / View House to Historic Environment Scotland.

Access road proposal

A further potential threat arises from Scottish Power’s current planning application to insert a permanent road to the adjacent surge tank.

This is no trivial undertaking. It involves crossing and building out a steep bank. Armies of surveyors have inspected the area, which crosses land owned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The plan was hatched in preference to the obvious flat route (across land that is part of Robiesland Farm) that has been used recently to access the surge tank. Then hard core was put down to support heavy vehicles and was removed when the work was completed.

Yet despite the complexity of the undertaking and the obvious need to consider its impact on the setting of the Bonnington Pavilion the application documentation indicates that no consultation with Historic Environment Scotland (HES, the successor body to Historic Scotland) took place when drawing up these plans. However, (quite properly) a projected species survey was commissioned.

But why has there been no Heritage Impact Assessment?

And why has the opportunity to enhance the setting of the Pavilion / View House been overlooked?

View House (drawaing)
Alexander Archer’s sketch of “The Pavilion of the Cora Falls of the Clyde” (1837)

For example, the Pavilion could be reconnected with its historic approach path which was cut by the pipes leading to the power station. The steps up to its first floor entrance could have then been restored to their original alignment. And the appallingly ugly and intrusive railings erected the last time work was undertaken by Scottish Power could be replaced with railings in the style of the Bonnington Estate.

HES has advised me that the planning application has been referred to them.

Hopefully its assessment of the application will be rather more considered than was Historic Scotland’s assessment of the proposed quarry when Cemex came calling.

Save Our Landscapes will be making a submission calling for a Heritage Impact Assessment to be conducted.

How to comment on the planning application

If you wish to comment on the planning application, it can be found on South Lanarkshire Council’s website using the application number: CL/17/0152. Comments must be received by 27 April.

Mark Stephens, Chair, Save Our Landscapes

RESPONSE TO CEMEX’S APPEAL AGAINST NEW LANARK QUARRY DECISION

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Sunrise over Tinto and the Bonnington Parkland

Cemex’s decision to make a legal challenge to Scottish Ministers’ decision to reject its application to extend Hyndford Quarry into the Buffer Zone of the New Lanark World Heritage Site and the Falls of Clyde Designed Landscape is as baffling as it is disappointing.

Scottish Ministers first issued notification of their intended decision in June 2015, in the light of which Cemex issued the following statement: “Cemex unequivocally recognizes that World Heritage sites are no go areas for extractive activities, and nothing in either the sites or their Buffer Zones must interfere with their Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) nor impinge in any way on their setting.”

The company went on to state in relation to the Hyndford application:

“Cemex acknowledges the recent decision of Scottish Ministers and is committed to working together with the Ministers, the local authority, relevant NGOs and other interested parties to ensure the ongoing best interests of the World Heritage site, its OUV and setting.”

UNESCO welcomed both Scottish Ministers’ decision and what it called Cemex’s “unequivocal new commitment.”

We had been looking forward to working not only for the protection but for the enhancement of the Buffer Zone and in particular to improve access to and appreciation of the Falls of Clyde Designed Landscape – the very area that Cemex proposed to quarry. We organised the successful “Celebration of the Falls of Clyde” weekend event in August which gained the support of a range of community groups and businesses to provide a series of expert talks and guided walks to the public.

With the help of the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership, we have been working towards more lasting opportunities to appreciate just how important are the Falls of Clyde and their setting to the history of the Royal Burgh of Lanark and of New Lanark, understanding the processes of the late glacial era which formed our landscape, the values of the Enlightenment, the development of landscape design and visual arts and to literary references which have all become famous far beyond our local area.

We had hoped that Cemex would be good to its word and would work with us to achieve these goals, demonstrating its commitment both to corporate responsibility and the community in Lanark.

Instead, Cemex’s decision to do the exact opposite of what it promised, means that yet more time and money will be expended on a court battle which cannot even grant them the permission they want but (at most) only send the case back to another drawn out repeat of the 2014 public hearing.

And to what end?

At the 2014 hearing, Cemex did not contest independent expert estimations of sand and gravel reserves in excess of 500 million tonnes in South Lanarkshire.

So why Cemex’s obsession with quarrying 3 million tonnes in an area that enjoys designations indicating both its national and international importance?

Why persist with an application that attracted record levels of public opposition – from across Lanarkshire, Scotland and indeed the world?

We trust that Scottish Ministers will defend this action with the utmost vigour.

MARK STEPHENS
GRAHAM U’REN
NEW LANARK AND FALLS OF CLYDE WORKING GROUP

Published in the Lanark Gazette, 25 January 2017

CEMEX SNUBS UNESCO TO APPEAL SCOTTISH MINISTERS’ REFUSAL OF QUARRY PERMISSION IN NEW LANARK BUFFER ZONE

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In December 2016 Scottish Ministers confirmed their decision to reject Cemex’s application to extend Hyndford Quarry (pictured) into the Buffer Zone of the New Lanark World Heritage Site at the Falls of Clyde (but to allow a smaller extension outside it).

On 17 January Cemex lodged an appeal at the Court of Session, on the ground that Scottish Ministers’ reasoning was “inadequate.”

Cemex’s action follows an assurance given by the company to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee which had formally expressed its concern about the proposed development.

This is what Cemex said:

CEMEX unequivocally recognizes that World Heritage sites are no go areas for extractive activities, and nothing in either the sites or their Buffer Zones must interfere with their Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) nor impinge in any way on their setting…”

Concerning the outcome of the New Lanark decision, Cemex said:

“Regarding the New Lanark World Heritage site, CEMEX acknowledges the recent decision of Scottish Ministers and is committed to working together with the Ministers, the local authority, relevant NGOs and other interested parties to ensure the ongoing best interests of the World Heritage site, its OUV and setting.”

Unesco respond to these statements as follows:

“The stopping of the Hyndford Quarry development in the buffer zone and the unequivocal above-mentioned new commitment given by the developer are to be welcomed.”

All this was reported at the 2016 meeting of Unesco’s World Heritage Committee as posted on its website here – more than a year after Scottish Ministers had issued their first notification, and in the knowledge that they had rejected the judgement of the Reporters.

Save Our Landscapes believes that it is incumbent on Scottish Ministers to contest this action with the utmost vigour.

 

 

 

 

SCOTTISH MINISTERS CONFIRM: NO QUARRYING IN THE NEW LANARK BUFFER ZONE

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It is now more than six years since Cemex notified South Lanarkshire Council of its intention to submit an application to extend Hyndford Quarry into the Buffer Zone of the New Lanark World Heritage Site at the Falls of Clyde.

Last week, Scottish Ministers issued their final decision.

The Final Decision

On 7 December 2016 Scottish Ministers issued their final decision letter regarding the proposed extension of Hyndford Quarry by Cemex. It confirms its earlier stated intention (in June 2015) to allow the “southern extension” that lies outside the Buffer Zone of the New Lanark World Heritage Site and Falls of Clyde Designed Landscape (to which we did not object), but to refuse permission for the proposed “western extension” that lies within these designated areas.

Unfortunately, the letter being sent to individuals who objected to the extension into the Buffer Zone is misleadingly phrased and several people have contacted me to say that they had assumed that it meant that the application had been successful. It is therefore important to publicise the correct meaning of the decision.

The process that led to the decision

Unless the applicant makes an appeal to the Court of Session (available on procedural grounds only) in the next six weeks  this marks the end of a process which began in October 2010, when Cemex notified the Council of its intention to submit an application. The application was submitted in November 2012, and approved by the local authority in December 2013. It was called in by Ministers in January 2013, and a public hearing before Reporters took place in August 2014. The Reporters recommended that the application should be permitted in full, but Scottish Ministers over-ruled this and issued a notification of intent to disallow the western extension in June 2015. Ministers approved the Reporters’ revised conditions in February 2016. After the local authority and applicant reached a legal agreement to enforce the conditions, Ministers issued their final decision.

Reasons for Ministers’ Decision

The decision letter states:

“Scottish Ministers disagree with the reporters’ conclusions … that the proposed development would not adversely affect the conservation interest or integrity of the New Lanark World Heritage Site, or its setting. Scottish Ministers, consider that a period of up to 8 years of landscape disturbance (on some designations or their settings, and from certain viewpoints…) before positive restoration in the western extension is unacceptable, and is not outweighed by the need for a supply of minerals… Scottish Ministers disagree with the Report and have decided that the proposed western extension should not be approved.”

The Reason stated for the condition that the prohibits extraction in the Buffer Zone is:

“To protect the setting of the New Lanark World Heritage Site and Falls of Clyde Designed Landscape.”

The future

Thank you to everyone who helped with this campaign. We are now working to continue to protect the area and to enhance it by widening the range of footpaths, replanting trees and public information.

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A CELEBRATION OF THE FALLS OF CLYDE: 20/21 AUGUST 2016

Corra Linn 3 (people).jpgA Weekend of Expert Talks and Guided Walks 20/21 August

When Save Our Landscapes was established 5 years ago, we made clear that we were more than an anti-quarry action group. We wanted to “protect, preserve and promote” New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde.

Now that the Scottish Government has prevented CEMEX from quarrying the area around the Falls of Clyde (within the New Lanark World Heritage Buffer Zone), we are delighted to have joined up with other local heritage groups to stage a weekend of talks and guided walks about the Falls of Clyde.

Saturday 20 August:

A one-day conference takes place on Saturday, which includes a series of talks and discussions about the Falls of Clyde in the morning, followed by guided walks in the afternoon. Booking is required for this using this link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-celebration-of-the-falls-of-clyde-free-tickets-26661944594

Sunday:

A drop-in day. Members of the public can drop-in to listen to talks and to join the guided walks. Booking is not required for this.

The talks by experts in their field will cover the rich diversity that the Falls of Clyde have to offer, including: the Geology of the Falls of Clyde, the Falls of Clyde as a Designed Landscape, Artists and the Falls of Clyde, and the role of Waterfalls in early Tourism. Discussions will include the future protection and enhancement of the Falls.

Guided walking tours include the Secrets of the Falls (which will take participants beyond the waterfalls to see the View House and the designed landscape), and to the historic ruin of Boathaugh, home of the 18th century traveller, “Lugless Wull”.

On Sunday there will also be an opportunity to see inside the Bonnington Hydro-electric Station.

SATURDAY 20 AUGUST: CONFERENCE (BOOKING REQUIRED)

09.30: Registration opens

10.15: Introduction

10.30: The Geology of the Falls of Clyde (Katie Whitbread, British Geographical Survey)

11.00: The Falls of Clyde as a Designed Landscape (Peter McGowan, Landscape Architect)

11.30: Waterfalls in Early Tourism (Ed Cole, University of Glasgow)

12.00: Artists and the Falls of Clyde (Jane Masters, New Lanark Trust)

12.30: Opportunities for the future (Mark Stephens, Save Our Landscapes)

+ Panel discussion

13.15: Lunch

14.15: Tours

Secrets of the Falls (Leader: Christopher Dingwall)

New Lanark – Bonnington Saw Mill and Pumping Station – Site of Bonningtonn House – Gentleman’s Mound – View House – Curved Terrace – Corra Linn –Bonnington Power — New Lanark

In Search of Lugless Will (Leader: Ed Archer)

New Lanark –Bonnington Parkland – East Lodge – Drove Road and Parliamentary Wall – Boathaugh – Drove Road – East Lodge – View House – Corra Linn – New Lanark

14.45 Tours

Secrets of the Falls (Leader: Allison Galbraith)

New Lanark – Bonnington Saw Mill and Pumping Station – Site of Bonningtonn House – Gentleman’s Mound – View House – Curved Terrace – Corra Linn –Bonnington Power — New Lanark

In Search of Lugless Will (Leader: Graham U’ren)

New Lanark –Bonnington Parkland – East Lodge – Drove Road and Parliamentary Wall – Boathaugh – Drove Road – East Lodge – View House – Corra Linn – New Lanark

 

SUNDAY 21 AUGUST: DROP-IN DAY

10.00: Open for registration for walks and activities

From 11.00 and from 14.00: Short Talks

An Overview of the Falls: Graham U’ren (Friends of New Lanark)

Famous Visitors to the Falls: C.A. Hope (author of New Lanark trilogy)

The Story of Lugless Will: Allison Galbraith (storyteller)

Wildlife and the Falls: Steve Blow (Scottish Wildlife Trust)

14.15: Tours

Secrets of the Falls

New Lanark – Bonnington Saw Mill and Pumping Station – Site of Bonningtonn House – Gentleman’s Mound – View House – Curved Terrace – Corra Linn –Bonnington Power — New Lanark

In Search of Lugless Will

New Lanark –Bonnington Parkland – East Lodge – Drove Road and Parliamentary Wall – Boathaugh – Drove Road – East Lodge – View House – Corra Linn – New Lanark

The Ruin of Braxfield House (Chris Ladds)

New Lanark – Braxfield Row – Braxfield House – Graveyard – Owen’s walks – New Lanark

Bonnington Power Station (Ross Galbraith)

Visit(s) to the UK’s first commercial hydro-electric power station

The Big Walk

A 6 mile circuit of the gorge beginning and ending at New Lanark, and taking in Alistair Gray’s mural of the Falls of Clyde at the Riverside Tavern.

New Lanark – Bonnington Weir – Corra Castle – Kirkfieldbank – Riverside Tavern – Castlebank Park – Clyde Walkway – New Lanark

 

Note: Programme subject to change

 FAQs

How do I book?

Booking is required for the conference on Saturday, using this link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-celebration-of-the-falls-of-clyde-free-tickets-26661944594

Booking is not required for Sunday.

When?

Saturday 20 August: 9:30-16.30

Sunday 21 August: All day (see programme)

Where?

New Lanark Visitor Centre, ML11 9DB

How do I get there?

By train: Lanark is served by a direct train from Lanark. A bus is available from the bus station to New Lanark.

By car: New Lanark is about one hour’s drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is plenty of free parking in the visitor car park.

Is there disabled access?

There is disabled access to the first floor of the Visitor Centre where the conference will be held. Regrettably, the walks are not suitable for wheelchair users.

Do I need to bring my own lunch?

Please bring your own lunch. Alternatively lunch may be purchased from the New Lanark Mill Pantry.

What footwear and clothing do I need?

Walking shoes or boots and waterproofs are advisable for the walks.

What if I’ve booked but can’t come?

Please let us know if you have booked for the conference, but are unable to attend. This will allow us to allocated your place to someone else.

Who is organising the event?

The event is being organised by the Falls of Clyde Heritage Group, an ad hoc group of people from local societies, including Save Our Landscapes, the Friends of New Lanark, Lanark & District Archaeology Society, and the Lanark & District Civic Trust.

Who is funding the event?

The organisers are grateful for financial support from Border Biscuit Trust, South Lanarkshire Council, and private individuals. Save Our Landscapes, Friends of New Lanark and LADAS have also made contributions.

Who do I contact if I have a question?

Mark Stephens: markstephens64@aol.com

Graham U’Ren: carseview@care4free.net

DEBATE NEEDED OVER THE EFFICACY OF WORLD HERITAGE STATUS IN PROTECTING SITES

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Yesterday, the Herald published an article by John McLellan complaining about UNESCO’s concerns regarding the adequacy of the planning system in protecting Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.

This prompted me to write a letter to the paper, in which I defended UNESCO’s intervention as being consistent with its role in protecting the designations that it awards.

With the New Lanark/ Falls of Clyde case in mind, I also suggested that we need a debate about the effectiveness of World Heritage Status in protecting sites, and the possibility that the designation may inadvertently devalue important sites that enjoy lesser designations.

The letter is reproduced here:

John McLellan complains about people who are “unelected and appointed by the unaccountable” seeking to influence the outcome of planning decisions that affect Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site (“Heritage and the zeal for the Status Quo”, 25 February). Anyone who knows anything about World Heritage (and I know something, having led a four year-long campaign to prevent a multinational company from quarrying in the Buffer Zone of the New Lanark World Heritage Site), will know that much of what he writes is wrong. Neither James Simpson (the Vice President of ICOMOS-UK), nor “his cronies” (whoever they are) has a “direct line into Unesco”. Nor is the role of Unesco or its officials comparable to that of Angela Merkel or the European Union.
The fact is that the UK’s membership of Unesco did not compel the then Secretary of State for Scotland to put forward Edinburgh’s New and Old Towns to be awarded World Heritage Status by Unesco, any more than Nicola Sturgeon or Fiona Hyslop were compelled to support the nomination of the Forth Rail Bridge. For a site to be awarded World Heritage Status, it must fulfil specified criteria that demonstrate its “Outstanding Universal Value”. Thereafter, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee receives reports on its sites in order to evaluate their “state of conservation”. This is not only perfectly reasonable, but it would be negligent not to do so.  There is nothing legally that Unesco can do to prevent a planning application that harms a site’s Outstanding Universal Value. If Edinburgh Castle were to be demolished and replaced by a Scottish Disneyland then doubtless Unesco would remove the city from its list. But it could do nothing to prevent it.
There is a debate to be had over the effectiveness of World Heritage Status in protecting its sites, and indeed whether it inadvertently devalues other important heritage assets that enjoy lesser designations,
However, in the absence of a single constructive suggestion it is unclear what function Mr McLellan’s article was intended to serve – other than perhaps performing the role of a therapeutic whinge.

 

NEW FIGURES SHOW CEMEX’S CASE WAS ALWAYS FOUNDED ON SAND

Cemex Hyndford sign

Cemex’s case for extending Hyndford Quarry into the New Lanark World Heritage Buffer Zone by the Falls of Clyde relied on the alleged deficiency in sand and gravel supplies.

On this basis, had South Lanarkshire’s planning policies been respected, the application should never been given the time of day.

The South Lanarkshire Minerals Plan states that Cemex needed to demonstrate that there existed “an over-riding need for the minerals to serve markets of national importance.”

Cemex did not even attempt to do this.

The Mexican multinational was happy to agree that Hyndford’s market “is [only] of regional significance.” [1]

Instead it pointed to a minor deficiency in the 10 year land bank of permitted minerals supplies to serve all markets.

The local authority was happy to go along with this, and approved the application in December 2013.

Much was made of the increasing levels of output from Hyndford Quarry at the Hearing that followed the Scottish Government’s decision to call in the application.

South Lanarkshire Council’s 2014 minerals survey, based on unaudited figures supplied by the operators,  showed output at Hyndford Quarry rising from 465,000 tonnes in 2013 [2] to 500,000 in 2014 [3]. The local authority predicted that output would rise further to 550,000 tonnes in 2015 [4].

Fortunately, the Scottish Government did not accept this assessment, arguing in its “notice of intention” to reject the main part of the application, that the landbank “is only marginally short.” [5]

A little over a year on from the Hearing, Cemex’s case looks even more absurd.

New figures obtained from the council’s 2015 survey show that, contrary to its forecasts, output had crashed by almost 100,000 tonnes to 405,000 tonnes [6] – a fall of almost 20 per cent, and a whopping 26 per cent below that which was forecast.

The lack of any agreed methodology with which to forecast the adequacy of mineral supplies, or to assess whether particular markets are being served, is a severe deficiency in the planning process.

Yet the inability of planning authorities to forecast output from one year to the next with any degree of accuracy is not the only problem.

As Professor Geoffrey Boulton observed in his Expert Witness Statement, assessing whether markets that cut across local authority boundaries are being served adequately on the basis of output from a single local authority “can be very misleading.” [7]

As events have shown, in place of current practice, planners might as well lick their fingers and stick them in the air, and then write down the first number that comes into their heads.

It’s evident that Scotland needs a more robust system of assessing the adequacy of minerals supplies.

Meanwhile, we may safely conclude that Cemex’s case for extending its quarry really was founded on sand.

Mark Stephens

Notes

[1] Cemex (2014) CEMEX Review Of Background Document on Demand and Supply, CEM.29 (submitted to Hearing NOD-SLS-001)

[2] South Lanarkshire Council (2014) Background Document on Demand and Supply. South Lanarkshire Aggregate Landbank, Table 3.3 (submitted to Hearing NOD-SLS-001)

[3] South Lanarkshire Council (2014) Background Document on Demand and Supply. South Lanarkshire Aggregate Landbank. August 2014 Update, p. 2 (submitted to Hearing NOD-SLS-001)

[4] ibid., p. 4

[5] Notice of Intention from L Murray, Directorate for Local Government and Communities, Scottish Government, to Mark Kelly, Cemex UK, 26 June 2015, ref NOD-SLS-001

[6] South Lanarkshire Minerals/ Waste Operators Survey 2015

[7] Geoffrey Boulton (2014) Witness Statement, New Lanark and Falls of Clyde Working Group, NOD-SLS-001, July, para. 6