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.
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.
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?
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