SKARA BRAE, ORKNEY–The Western Orkney Planning Commission voted at a tumultuous meeting last night to retain the Historic Preservation district in Skara Brae Village, over the protests of local residents and property owners.
“There’s no question that Old Skara Brae Village is a vital part of our national heritage,” said Oengus Adomnan, the president of the commission. “The area’s architecture is unique in the world–all 400 square miles of it. It would be a crime against the humanities to destroy it in the name of what one might laughingly call progress.”
Residents of the 600-year-old district had petitioned the commission for relief from some of the rules restricting development. The petition arose after Western Orkney planning administrators declined residents’ applications to install new peat-burning hearths as being “incompatible with the character of the historic district.”
“I don’t mind historic preservation as such,” said Cinaed mac Fergusa, a long-time resident, “but who wants to live in a museum–especially one without modern conveniences? They keep saying we need to get ahead of climate change but won’t give us the tools to do so. If we don’t get some relief, property values are going to sink so low we’ll all have to get around by tunneling. You won’t get anyone who wants to live here.”
The move follows an earlier controversy over the closure of the House Eight Flint Axe Factory, which was shut for environmental reasons two years ago in favor of a new location at Brodgar. The project foundered due to cost overruns, however, and ran out of money with only the frame of the new building complete, forcing the community to become a net importer of flint tools.
Attempts to repurpose the original House Eight facility with a use compatible with a residential district have not yet met with success.
“When the time comes to evaluate the history of our village, the House Eight fiasco will be seen not as the failure of a project but a failure of vision,” said Adomnan, the commission president. “We had a wonderful opportunity to improve the welfare of our citizens, but certain parties refused to do what was necessary to make it a success. Maybe we can use the original House Eight site for affordable housing.”
Resident mac Fergusa recalled the incident differently. “It was a bad idea from beginning to end,” he said. “Sure, next door to a factory isn’t the best place to live. On the other hand, considering that our community is carved out of a waste heap, the notion of living next to a flint axe factory rather pales in comparison.
“And now that we’ve successfully exported those jobs, I hear they want to use the House Eight site to bring in more people–and what are they going to be doing for work, I wonder.”
In other business, the Western Orkney Planning Commission agreed to put out bids for a potential conference center and time machine portal to be located at the currently-abandoned Brogdal site. The commission also reviewed three bids on a proposed protective wall around Skara Brae, rejecting all three on the grounds that they had come in over the projected budget.
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