Orkney Archaeology Society Press Release – 10 October 2021
Subject: Consultation on the future of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney
A partnership of the Council, Historic Environment Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have brought forward radical plans for the development of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site (WHS). These include the introduction of a network of pedestrian and cycles paths, a Gateway Centre and new tool to help local people and visitors to the county interpret the Site.
Orkney Archaeology Society (OAS) have submitted their comments to the consultation and broadly welcomes the proposals.
The OAS submission states that the suggested investment in the WHS is very exciting:
The proposals, especially the proposed interpretative centre, will give visitors (both local and tourists) to the Centre new tools to understand what they are looking at. The suggestion to create a network of paths for walking and cycling that stretched from the Unstan Tomb in the West, Maeshowe in the East, the Brodgar car park in the North and the main road (A965) from the South will transform how we experience the sites all for the better.
However, the submission goes on to state that:
The proposal is yet to reflect the strengths of the very well-developed Orcadian community heritage sector (Orkney Archaeology Society, Orkney Heritage Society, and the myriad of community heritage groups across the parishes and islands of Orkney) and our archaeology sectors (the UHI Archaeology Institute etc.) A firm commitment is needed that these groups will be included as key partners in the further development of the plans, particularly in the design and content of the information being given to visitors whether that be via information boards, electronic bar codes and other media.
The submission goes on to state, while the Society does not disagree that visitors to the sites could contribute to their upkeep, access to the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness must remain free and the case for charging for the use of the car parks has not been effectively made. They are concerned that charging may lead to visitors parking on the roads, in the passing points and in Stenness Village and that a full impact assessment was needed before progressing this idea further. Instead, the Society said the partners should explore whether using a percentage of the Harbour Fees paid by visiting cruise ships would be a better way forward. They argue that this would be an excellent way for the cruise companies to contribute to the tourism infrastructure of the county.
David Drever, Chair of OAS said:
“OAS is very excited by the proposals, but the final plan needs to be drawn up with the full involvement of Orkney’s community Heritage Sector, local archaeologists working in the field and the local community. We don’t want to be consulted on a plan drawn up by others, we should have a core role in writing the plan.”
The submission to HES by OAS