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Fears for the remains of a crannog loch house dating from the 1500s if dredging goes ahead as part of the proposed Coire Glas hydro scheme on Loch Lochy, have sparked a call for a full archaeological survey to be carried out.
The plea for the archaeological survey came from Caol and Mallaig councillor Denis Rixson at the recent meeting of Highland Council’s South Planning Committee during discussion of the proposed application notice (PAN) from SSE Renewables.
The PAN comprises the deposition and landscaping of spoil from the Coire Glas scheme scheme on land at Mucomir Farm, near Gairlochy, where for part of which there is an existing consent for quarrying activities.
SSE Renewables is holding a public exhibition today (Thursday) to provide information on the proposals and this will take place from 2-7pm in Spean Bridge Community Centre.
Promoting the event, Andy Gregory, Coire Glas project manager, said: ‘The exhibition will present our early assessments of why Mucomir Quarry could be a suitable location for the storage of excavated material and highlight some of the issues we will address as the proposals proceed towards the likely submission of a planning application to Highland Council later in the year.’
However, Councillor Rixson told planning committee members that the proposal could involve up to 2.3 million tons of spoil being dug out for the Coire Glas project and transported to Mucomir.
If thousand-ton barges were used as originally envisaged, he said, that meant 2,300 barge loads going backwards and forwards across Loch Lochy.
Councillor Rixson continued: ‘If we divide it by three for the potential of three barges, we’re still talking about something like 760 days’ worth of operations because it’s difficult to imagine more than one barge being filled with a thousand tons, taken across the loch, emptied of a thousand tons, then coming back again in less than a day.
‘What I am saying is that when the planning application comes forward, we have the sort of level of detail which allows us to make considered judgments on that basis.
‘There are two things here – one is the time that it is going to take because obviously it is going to be extremely time-consuming to take heavy barges backwards and forwards across Loch Lochy and the second thing is the noise.
‘It is difficult to imagine how we completely solve that problem because we all know noise travels across water.
‘But it will be a significant issue – anybody who’s ever watched a barge being loaded or unloaded with stone will know that it’s a noisy operation. You have the noise of the machine, you have rock on rock and rock on metal.
‘So, I do ask, please, when the planning application comes forward we have a sufficient level of detail to allow us to judge and, of course, there’s also the noise associated with any crushing which takes place.’
It was then that Councillor Rixson mentioned the question of archaeology. He explained: ‘Loch Lochy was raised about 11 feet when they built the Caledonian Canal, so I would ask, please, that we consider a really thorough investigation of local archaeology on that farm prior to it being covered with what could potentially be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of tons of rock.
‘The third thing is that the proposal also mentions the possibility of dredging. We have in Highland a great number of crannogs or loch houses or lake houses as they are sometimes called.
There is something like over 50 in Inverness-shire alone. In the latest known examples of a crannog is actually a little bit north-west of this site on the opposite shore of Loch Lochy where the Mackintosh built a crannog in about 1580 in order to subdue the natives.
‘My point is, if we’re going to go dredging underneath the surface of the water could we please have a full archaeological survey beneath as well so we don’t clear away the relics of any crannogs at the same time as we are clearing the site for dredging.’
The proposed Coire Glas hydro scheme is earmarked for the shore of Loch Lochy, pictured. NO-F16-Loch-Lochy
A 3D rendering of a Celtic crannog.