Friday, 19 September 2014

Scans of Old Photos

I was delighted to come across these amazing high quality photographs of Balintore Castle recently. They are already proving invaluable for the current restoration. 

It looks like the images are very old. There is some efflorescence of the lime below the oriel window but the remainder of the mortar and certainly the gravel paths look "sharp". Given a little time has passed since construction in 1860, I would put the photos between 1870 and 1900
west elevation
 The west elevation image above reveals the missing urns from the entrance door to be still in place. It shows a balustraded rail to the immediate left of the door which is also no longer there. I understand the balusters are in use as garden ornaments all over the surrounding area. :-) Currently there is poor quality grass/mud to the front of the castle, but the rather hard texture suggests there might once have been gravel there. The photograph confirms this, and shows how to put things back as they were originally.

west elevation detail : main entrance door
What particularly grabbed my attention in the above detail of the main entrance, is the marvellous door furniture: a lion's head bell pull and an unusual square brass handle. Someone once described the handle to me as "squarish and like nothing I've seen before" so it has clearly been there in living memory. However, I was not expecting the handle to be quite so plain and un-ornamented. In fact to my eye, the placement of the handle's back plate ( 9" wide × 7 ½ " high) is not quite aesthetic. I am currently investigating getting a replacement back plate made.

west elevation
The west elevation above shows garden paths (now missing); a stone staircase to the north (now missing) and an intact oriel window (now collapsed).

Thanks to Catherine MacIntyre for scanning these in.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Nay, Nay and Thrice Nay

it's official !  (image courtesy of Catherine MacIntyre)

I have just returned from today’s meeting of the Developments Standards Committee
of Angus Council in Forfar. The Councillors voted to either approve or reject the planning department’s recommendation that the Carrach Wind Farm should be constructed next to Balintore Castle.

There were 3 votes for the motion (accept the recommendation) and 9 votes for the amendment (reject the recommendation). In other words, this third attempt to place a wind farm next to the castle has failed. Hurrah!

The vote could have gone either way and at one stage during the meeting I seriously thought the vote was going to go against us. This third planning application is considerably scaled down from the second, and involves 2 shorter turbines instead of 9 taller ones, so I thought the outcome would be at least more in favour of the wind farm than the previous committee meeting where the recommended second application was rejected 2 years ago.
view from Balintore Castle of two wind turbine development recommended by Council

In fact, the margin of victory was even larger than last time and reflects the clear message that emerged at the meeting that the community were against the development (60 letters against, 6 letters for). The community council was against the development. There are also around 100 members of the STOP THE CARRACH WINDFARM Facebook group. A number of Councillors stood up to say they had to reflect the wishes of their constituents. However, a number of Councillors also spoke strongly in favour of the windfarm, so until the vote itself there was no inkling of what the outcome would be.

6 objectors spoke first with a 5 minute slot each. This was followed by a single supporter, who unsurprisingly was the developer! I was second in the objector running order. My main point was that whether there are 2 turbines or 9, it does not matter, the setting of Balintore Castle is still destroyed. I also highlighted the Scottish Government reporter’s conclusion that no wind farms should ever be built on this very special site.

One of the pro Councillors insisted that 2 turbines of half the height would only have one-eighth the impact of 9 taller ones, and that this equated to 0.125 %. :-) If this had been a public meeting, I would have jumped up immediately and pointed out that he was a factor of 100 out. As it was, I permitted myself a smile of wry amusement in a day that was stressfully serious.

I would like to thank everyone who spoke at the meeting in defense of the Quharity Glen; everyone that turned up to show their support; the Councillors who saw reason; and indeed everyone who has been campaigning behind the scenes. The other speakers were much more briefed on their facts than I and were able to give a precise chapter and verse account of where the development breached guidelines. This precise attention to documentation is the way the system operates, and rightly so. For my part, my emotions ran so high regarding the ongoing struggle/war to save Balintore Castle that I could only tell the story from my point of view: that a gross travesty was going to be committed against an A-listed building and that I felt it was wrong, at the very least, that the Council were recommending such a course of action.

I like to construct “thought experiments” to determine the morality of any situation. If Balintore Castle were Balmoral Castle or if I were John Betjeman, then the wind farm would never have got a look in. Is this right or wrong?

As I left the chair after speaking, I almost broke down in tears. Again, after the result of the voting was announced I almost broke down again. Emotional stress always tends to manifest itself
 after the strain has been removed. The odd thing about a burden being removed is that you do not feel immediately joyful afterwards, because you start to appreciate the weight of the burden that you were under but tried to under-play. I definitely feel "lighter", and the residents of the glen have agreed to find a way to celebrate properly in due course. :-)

Will the developer appeal against the decision again? In the light of what the glen has been through, one can never say “never”, especially in the light of the Council recommending a wind farm for approval even after the Government had said a categorical "no". If you want to help guard against wind farms being put in this beautiful area, there is a petition being run by the local community and it may be signed at the local Farm/Craft Shop - Peel Farm.