Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Scottish Government plans to construct a eco-town on a famous Upper Deeside estate, if there's a ‘Yes’ vote in Scotland's Independence referendum. A development trust has produced a secret blueprint for what will become Scotland’s largest new town, describing the visionary venture as ‘a cooperative community' with affordable housing, apprentice and student accommodation, schools, nurseries, health centres, business and farm units, parks, High Streets, community and sports facilities, a golf course, bus stops, cycle ports, a snow plough and gritting depot, craft workshops, exhibition halls, libraries, public halls, museums and galleries. A spokesperson for the trust said that "with 60% green space, the build area will feel open - a stand-alone town inspired by both Marinaleda in impoverished Andalusia, and the Masdar City project in oil-rich Abu Dhabi. The architecture blends the old with the new, drawing influence from older styles but with the latest design features to accommodate modern living." Ironically for Birkhall owner Prince Charles, the planned town is modelled partly on his Poundberry village in Dorset, England.

This vibrant, controversial town will host Scotland’s Tourism Board HQ, a Land Management School, a flagship Apprenticeship College specialising in the construction trades, a Conference Centre and a renewable energy department. These will be housed in (and adjoin) the estate’s Castle: all regal lodges and property will be requisitioned by compulsory purchase without compensation. Shooting and hunting on the estate will cease. The River Dee will be accessible to all anglers who follow sustainable fishing practices. Private homes, Lochnagar Distillery, disability cottage lets and forestry operations will remain largely unaffected. Special attention will be paid to recycling, biomass heating, solar power, advanced street lighting and ultrafast-fibre broadband connectivity.

The Deeside railway line will reopen to run a Light Rail Network alongside the current walk and cycle path from Aberdeen to Ballater. Hydrogen cell powered bus transport will be expanded and transformed in the area. Although the town aims to be pedestrianised and virtually vehicle-free, the A93 trunk road will be upgraded. A £2 billion outer Aberdeen bypass will leave the A90 at Laurencekirk and link to Banchory and Huntly. With tenders and a three year timescale secretly agreed, a joint venture Japanese/Italian consortium is the preferred bidder to build a tunnel taking this new road under the Cairn O’Mount hill pass.

The town will be part-funded by Scotland’s new Oil Fund. Total costing for this radical project is not contained in the masterplan, which was leaked today (April 1st) under a working title of the estate’s existing name 'Balmoral'. I suggest calling it 'Utopia'. Che’s maxim that "only those who dream will someday see their dreams converted to reality" springs readily to mind.

The Balmoral estate was leased in 1848 by Prince Albert. He bought it in 1852, and Balmoral Castle was built between 1853 and 1856, after the original house was deemed too small for the royal household. The 1862 Crown Estates Act allowed Queen Victoria to inherit the estate following Albert's death. George V made improvements in the 1920s, including formal gardens. Owned by Trustees (with Queen Elizabeth the sole beneficiary of the Trust), today the Balmoral estate sprawls over 49,000 acres. A holiday retreat, it is underused by a privileged minority.

There's an ancient (English) law making it illegal to envisage the end of the monarchy. Comedian Mark Thomas wrote to the Royal Parks Police to request a parade while “not doing anything but walking through Hyde Park thinking about the end of the monarchy'. The Parks Police turned down Mark's request.

Essential reading:- 'The Poor had No Lawyers', Andy Wightman (2011, Birlinn). Subtitled - 'Who owns Scotland (and how they got it)'.

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