At Sheep Hill, the area that has planning permission for quarrying contains a prehistoric fort that is designated as a scheduled monument.
There is a long and complex planning history at the site and we are looking to find a solution that will allow the fort to be excavated by archaeologists and recorded and understood before any quarrying takes place.
At Historic Environment Scotland, it is our role to promote the best outcomes for Scotland’s important historic sites and places. We are responsible for designating scheduled monuments and assessing development proposals that affect these sites.
Applications for change are made through a process called scheduled monument consent. In September 2021, we received an application to quarry the prehistoric fort on Sheep Hill, near Milton, Dumbarton. An existing quarry operates next to the fort, and the owner would like to extend.
Scheduled monument consent is separate from any other consent or permission process, including planning permission. Some works will require both planning permission and scheduled monument consent. This is the case at Sheep Hill.
The situation affecting Sheep Hill is very unusual. Planning permission for the quarry has been in place since 1949.
The principle of quarrying the site
The Secretary of State and more recently Historic Scotland have accepted the principle that the fort would be removed by quarrying on several occasions:
- Planning permission for quarrying an area including the fort was given by the Secretary of State in 1949.
- In 1973 the quarry owner served three months notice of the intention to quarry the monument and the Secretary of State accepted this.
- This principle was established for a third time when Historic Scotland granted consent for quarrying and for archaeological excavation in 2002. The application contained a proposal for a mitigation excavation leading to analysis and publication. Historic Scotland imposed a condition to ensure that if the works went ahead the excavation would be conducted in accordance with the method statement in the application.
This means that there is a history of government repeatedly accepting that the fort would be quarried.
The scheduled monument consent application
The application is for tree felling, removal of soil and drift deposits and quarrying operations. The quarrying would wholly remove all archaeological structures, layers and other materials as well as the underlying rock. The application does not include any proposals for an archaeological excavation before quarrying.
What is Historic Environment Scotland’s position?
This is an exceptional case where the principle of quarrying has been accepted by government on several occasions. Planning permission is in place and scheduled monument consent has been granted previously. These are material considerations and we consider it is therefore not reasonable to refuse scheduled monument consent now.
Our position is that we propose to grant scheduled monument consent but that the developer must put in place an adequate programme of archaeological survey, excavation and recording before quarrying can go ahead. This must then be followed by appropriate analysis and publication so that the fort’s history can be shared with the public and made available for researchers.
You can read more about how we have reached this position and the conditions that we have asked the developer to comply with to ensure that archaeological survey, excavation and recording takes place before any quarrying in our report of handing available on our Historic Environment Portal.
What happens now?
If we propose to grant consent for an application which is not the ‘minimum necessary consistent with conserving the cultural significance of the monument’ as set out in The Scheduled Monument Consent (Notification of Applications) Direction 2015 then we must notify Scottish Ministers. We have completed this process and Scottish Ministers are considering the case.
In terms of next steps, Scottish Ministers can return the case to us and we proceed as set out above or they can ‘call in’ the case for their own determination. This process usually takes around four weeks, and we expect to hear in mid-January 2022.
We will provide an update once we hear from Scottish Ministers.