Argyll ark art set to be saved from sinking

Environmentalist David Blair built the Ark artwork 'to raise awareness of the scale and urgency of the climate and ecological emergency', as well as 'start conversations and inspire action'.

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A ‘Biblical scale’ sculpture of Noah’s Ark built without planning consent by the Kyles of Bute, to provoke thought about the climate crisis –  Oban and Fort William are projected to be hit by flooding within 30 years – may not be wrecked by Argyll & Bute Council.

No sooner had the neo Noah, local environmentalist David Blair, hammered the last nail into his 20 metre-long ark than council officers hit him with an enforcement notice requiring him to submit a planning application by September 22 – the end of a 28-day period it is allowed to stand without planning permission.

Now officers are recommending councillors on Wednesday’s Planning Committee do not let the project sink.

The structure in Tighnabruaich, designed by Mr Blair for last November’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, stands six metres high and over five metres wide, with a bench seat all the way around the base for people to sit and think about what lies before them.

‘The Ark is a form that most people will connect with,’ David told The Oban Times before COP26: ‘Its synchronicity with Noah and the great flood resonates with sea level rises due to climate change, with many species and habitats threatened with extinction.

The ‘arkitect’, a woodsman who has lived in Tighnabruaich for more than 25 years, added: ‘The art is all I can do to raise the debate where I live. It’s what I can do.

‘The Ark is a call to action – we cannot afford to miss this boat. Climate change is by far the greatest threat that humanity, and most of life on Earth, has ever faced and it is only us that can do anything about it.’

The ark’s one objector, a resident of Tighnabruaich, said that ‘although the wooden structure is a laudable gesture’, it is ‘a political statement’ and ‘attacks various forms of political thought’.

‘The builder is known for his political views on the environment, as well as setting up the local Extinction Rebellion group,’ he said: ‘an extremist fringe group which has courted many legal and court rulings. There is a huge element of civil disobedience from this builder, which he seems to relish.

‘COP26 has ended,’ he adds – yet the builder proposes the ‘temporary’ structure stands ‘until 2045, when the Scottish Government has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions’.

The ark, he concludes, ‘blights the skyline and does not fit within the local area and local buildings, let alone meet with the local authority and Scottish definitions of a building.’

A council planning officer commented: ‘The visual and landscape impact of the development will be assessed. The other issues set out above do not have a material bearing upon the planning aspects of the case.’

NatureScot, a consultee, said: ‘Crucially, it is not visible at all from the National Trust for Scotland viewpoint at Creagan Dubh. Given this, combined with the nature of the building materials used (open trusses made from non-reflective larch wood that will dull with time) and design features (open and curved), it is not considered that visual impacts will be significant.

‘Given the nature of the structure and its relatively small scale (compared to the adjacent telecommunications mast at Creag Rubha Bhain, for instance), it is not considered that it adversely affects the landscape character of the area.’