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9 April 2005
Anger over stone circle burial plots

A Company offering burial plots at an ancient stone circle has provoked anger in a north-east Scottish community. Edinburgh-based Native Woodland hopes to attract buyers to the site at Cothiemuir Hill, near Alford, with the promise of a 'simply unique' burial. The grounds are in a woodland clearing on part of the 6,000 acre Forbes Estate. The stone circle is thought to be 4,000 years old and its alter-shaped recumbent stone weighs more than 20 tonnes. However, the company's planning application, which includes an access road and car park, has not yet been granted permission by Aberdeenshire Council. Some residents at nearby Keig said there were 'serious ethical and moral' issues and plan to object before the deadline on April 14.
     Jo Stover, of Auchnagathle Farm, Keig, said the plans, would damage the landscape and stone circle. "I'm one of the newer residents here, but I can tell you there are a lot of people who are upset by this. We don't want this in our village," she said. "I don't think it's right to have a new-age burial ground at such an important site. Most people are appalled," she added. In a letter to villagers she wrote that the monument belonged to "all future generations" and that Native Woodland's plan "undermines the attraction of this ancient monument for all others".
     Neighbour Colin Turnbull, who is on the vestry of St Andrew's Church in Alford, said he was concerned over moral issues and added: "It's such a beautiful spot and is archaeologically so important. Mr Turnbull said local pressure saved Keig Church from being developed into housing two years ago and said villagers would meet to discuss their next step later this week. He added: "There is still a burial yard at Keig, so why do we need another?"    
     Ian Walls, director of Native Woodland, said the burial plots at the circle would not spoil the historic site and only ashes would be interred. He said the plots would be marked with plain stones without inscriptions. However, additional plans for a full burial site at a neighbouring field form part of the application. Marker stones could eventually form a circle with a 100 ft diameter. Mr Walls said: "We're very careful to select our sites and respect the aesthetics of the area. There is a growing demand for this type of thing." The venture is backed by landowner Malcolm Forbes whose ancestors have lived at the estate for around 600 years.
     A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: "Based on further information which has now come to light, we have a number of concerns about the negative impact this proposal will have on the setting of the scheduled ancient monument."

Source: The Press and Journal, This is North Scotland (5 April 2005)

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