Cornton Vale

Cornton Vale, Scotland’s main jail for women which is just about to close, has a long and fascinating history: it started life as a late 19th century farm that after the 1890s was turned into a rehabilitation unit for middle class men with alcohol dependency problems. After this failed it was bought by the Church of Scotland and turned into  a ‘Labour colony’ which were common in Britain before 1939 and motivated by ‘training colonies’ associated with the German Lutheran church, although increasingly it recruited the unemployed with the primary aim to remove them from Scotland with a number transported to Canada. After World War 1 it helped to retrain jobless ex-servicemen and then in 1946 it was sold to the Scottish Office Prisons Department and until 1975, was run as an open borstal. In 1975, Cornton Vale women’s prison was formed of a total of 217 cells located over 5 houses.

The name ‘Cornton’ is in fact far older:  ‘Corn Toun’  or Corn Town and refers to a much older agricultural property dating to the middle ages when it was run by the Catholic Church. The oldest thing in Cornton, however, are the remains of a 2000 year old whale discovered under the level crossing, dating to an age when the Forth was much higher and Cornton was on the coast!

Cornton map

The first map of Cornton: Adair’s 1680s map, courtesy of the National Map library of Scotland

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas from the Planning and Building Standards Team.


We wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Please note that Planning and Building Standards will be closed from Monday 25th December 2017 until Tuesday 2nd January 2018 inclusively, and reopen for business on Wednesday 3rd January 2018.

Please keep an eye out for some new and exciting blog posts in the New Year!

Atlantic Wall Archeaology Insite


The end of the Nazis started here…… This top-secret research and training ground was used in the preparation for D-Day, one of the most important events in world history.

Following the Nazi’s occupation of Europe, Hitler ordered the construction of a massive series of defences along Europe’s coastline, often using slave labour. The key element of these was the infamous Atlantic Wall designed to repel tanks. They were constructed from reinforced concrete, at which the German’s excelled.

In order to determine how to breach these walls in 1943 the British formed the Anti-Concrete Committee. The plans for the Atlantic Wall were smuggled out of occupied Europe in a biscuit tin. In order to work out how to breach these defences the British constructed a series of replicas across Britain and the biggest and best preserved of these is at Sheriffmuir, Stirling. Sheriffmuir was chosen for both its relative isolation and its proximity to the major transport hub at Stirling.

The complex of reconstructions reflects both German offensive and defensive positions and recreates the ground conditions and distances from the landing craft in the sea all the way to the wall. The Atlantic Wall at Sherriff Muir, is a massive block of reinforced concrete 86 m long and about 3 m in height and up to 3m thick. As it was used for target practice it’s covered with hundreds of missile impacts, if you close your eyes you can almost hear the explosions, feel the shocks and smell the gunpowder!

My favourite element is the Torbruk Shelter, which is to the immediate east of the wall and is based on the German tactic of burying tanks in sand, leaving only their main gun barrel exposed. The shelter develops this idea into two fixed gun positions and an underground shelter.

AtlanticWall image1AtlanticWall image2


There was a long history of military training at Sheriffmuir. Originally named ‘The Sheriff Muir’ it was used for medieval weaponshaws. In World War 1 the ground was laced with practice trenches which were constructed by the 52nd (Lowland) Division trained on the range before going to Gallipoli in 1915. Infamously many of these troops were killed in the Gretna Train Disaster on the 22nd May which resulted in the deaths of over 200 people and is still, to this day, Britain’s worst train crash.

Captain M. A. Philip (Brigade Signals Officer, 185 Bde 3 Div.) was involved in the Wall’s construction. He recollected:

“We began some Combined Operations exercises, pretty primitive at first, known as ‘dryshod-exercises’. A road or some other suitable landmark represented the coastline, and if you were on one side of it you were technically afloat and on the other side on land again. Men and vehicles were fed across the ‘coastline’ at specified intervals to represent landing craft discharging their contents.”

If you intend to visit the site, please note that it is on private ground, so please follow the Country Code. The ground is very uneven so watch your footing! Finally, there is a lot of broken and snapped iron rebar, so be very careful when you explore the remains.

Dr Murray Cook – Stirling Council Archaeologist

Supplementary Guidance – Consultation

As part of the new Local Development Plan we are reviewing all 36 pieces of Supplementary Guidance that form part of the adopted Local Development Plan. We are consolidating and updating each of them. Most of them simply require minor updates and require to be rolled forward to form part of the new Local Development Plan when it is adopted, likely early next year.

So far we have reviewed and updated 4 pieces of guidance on Advertisements, Houses in Multiple Occupation, Housing in the Countryside and Wind Energy Developments. These are now available to viewed online at and we are inviting comments until Friday 12th January 2018.  If you wish to make any comments then please either email us at or write to us at SG Consultation, Planning & Building Standards, Stirling Council, Teith House, Stirling, FK7 9JF. Please don’t comment directly on this post if you have any comments as we can’t take them into account as part of the consultation!

Please note that all our existing Supplementary Guidance remains in use until the new ones are adopted.

Before we can use the new guidance, as a responsible authority we have to carry out a screening report to decide if a Strategic Environmental Assessment is needed. This has been done for the new guidance and it is has been decided that in line with legislation and advice an assessment of the guidance was not needed. The full reports can be viewed online at the above link.


Stirling Names – Albany Crescent

Like my youth and waistline, Albany Crescent is gone, demolished in 1965, but it has one of the most fascinating stories of any place names in Stirling. The houses were designed by Stirling’s John Allan who was famously responsible for the Wolf Craig Building amongst so many others in Stirling. The Crescent lay below Mote Hill, the northern tip of Gowan Hill, where the Beheading Stone is located, as well as a 2000 year old vitrified fort (John Allan also designed the iron and concrete mount for the stone). The Beheading Stone is supposed to have been used to execute Murdoch Duke of Albany in 1425 who plotted against James I.

So Albany Crescent is named after Murdoch Duke of Albany. As an aside ‘Albany’ is an honorific given to members of the Scottish Royal family and is the origin of Albany, New York state back when it was a British colony!

However, our story does not end there, John Allan was very keen on symbols and included an elaborate panel on one house, with the motto ‘What e’er thou art, act well they part’. David Oman Mackay, who eventually became the 9th President of the Mormon Church, had been leading the church in Scotland and while walking around Stirling saw the stone and it became a source of inspiration or him through his life. In 1965 the building was to be demolished and learning about this the Mormon Church bought the stone and had it shipped back to Utah where it is known as the David O. Mackay Stone.

Stirling Names – Kirk o’Muir

Kirk o’Muir

The Kirk (church) on the Muir in the Carron Valley, is one of the most overlooked wee gems in Stirling and is rife with a deep history. The site of a chapel dedicated to St Mary in the 15th century, probably in connection with John de Graham’s Castle and marked on maps in the 17th and 18th centuries it was demolished by the 1850s, when it became just a cemetery and the site of what may be Scotland’s smallest school, measuring 7.5m long and 4m wide!

As the location was so remote there was a risk of grave robbing and so the cemetery is dominated by a large iron cage or mort safe to keep the some of the bodies of the wealthiest people safe. This same remoteness has led to a tradition that in the late 17th century the site was used for conventicles (open air worship), when it was against the law to hold open air Christian Services, as the King, Charles II wanted to dictate how people worshipped! People were prosecuted and executed for breaking this law. To this day annual commemoration is held in August at the site.

A recent Community excavation involving the local community and Primary school children from Fintry, Buchylvie, St Ninian’s and Ballikinrain schools helped uncover the school and the oldest grave stone dating to 1682!

Stirling’s Doors Open Days & Archaeology Month 2017

Doors Open Day 2017 __ 1Doors Open Days is a great chance for both locals and visitors to get a rare view inside some of the Stirling area’s most interesting buildings, as well as to enjoy a lot of fun, free events taking place throughout the Stirling Council area. Doors Open Day / Archaeology Month is family friendly and encourages people of all ages to take an interest in their local heritage, both ancient and modern, and learn more about it.

This is Stirling’s 23rd year of taking part in Doors Open Days, this year the event is on Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th September 2017. Scottish Archaeology Month is on for the whole of September.  Highlight buildings to visit this year include Stirling Fire Station, the Sheriff Court, Carbeth Huts and new buildings in Kippen. Alternatively you could take part in an archaeological dig!

For full details of all buildings, times and events pick up a Doors open Days booklet from your local library, Council office or other venue, go to the Doors Open Days Stirling facebook or twitter pages or visit


Look out for the blue banners / balloons on participating buildings.


Doors Open Days and Scottish Archaeology Month (both supported by Historic Environment Scotland, are Stirling’s contribution to European Heritage Days, which take place throughout Europe each September.

European Heritage Days have been happening annually since 1999, they were launched by the Council of Europe in 1991 and are now run by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. This year hundreds of thousands of people in throughout the signatory States of the European Cultural Convention will celebrate Europe’s cultural heritage.

Doors Open Days and Archaeology Month, as part of European Heritage Days, highlight local skills and traditions, the history of an area, architecture and works of art, but the broader aim is to bring citizens together in harmony even though there are differences in cultures and languages.

For further information on European Heritage Days please go to

For more information on Stirling’s Doors Open Days contact

For more information on Stirling’s Archaeology Month contact



Planning Service Annual Report 2016/17

The Planning Service has recently published its Annual Report, its sixth such report prepared under the planning performance framework (PPF). The PPF captures key elements of a high-performing planning service, such as: the speed of decision-making; certainty of timescales, process and advice; delivery of good quality development; and an overall ‘open for business’ attitude.

The PPF gives a balanced measurement of the overall quality of the planning service and contributes towards driving a culture of continuous improvement.  Improvement has been a key focus of the Planning Service during the past 12 months. In December last year the Council’s Environment and Housing Committee approved our ‘Planning Service Improvement Plan’ – a three-year work programme aimed at improving decision making timescales, providing consistently high quality customer handling and focusing resources on key strategic priorities, such as the Stirling City Region Deal projects.

A critical review of the planning service’s performance, as evidenced in last year’s Annual Report report, along with stakeholder engagement and a desire to ensure the service is fit for purpose to meet the challenges of the City Deal and the emerging planning review led to the development of the Improvement Plan.

This year’s PPF is divided into three main parts: Part A looks back on the feedback provided by the Scottish Government on last year’s PPF and the progress we have made in the subsequent 12 months within development management; development planning; maintaining an effective supply of development land; and enforcement. Part B looks at our proposed service improvements; and Part C reports on a series of ‘National Headline Indicators’.

This year, the PPF illustrates that while the number of planning application determined across Scotland in the period April 2016 – March 2017 fell by 7%, the number of planning applications determined by Stirling Council in this period increased by 7%, from 736 to 790. The number of planning applications that Stirling Council processes and determines remains relatively high compared to comparable sized (by population) planning authorities.

PPF Blog_Page_1

In terms of decision-making timescales, average timescales for major application increased from 51.6 to 62.1 weeks but timescales for householder applications fell, from 8.3 to 7.5 weeks. Local (non-householder) applications remained the same at 12.4 weeks.

PPF Blog_Page_2

Reducing decision-making timescales, particularly for major development, is a key focus of the Improvement Plan.  This programme of improvement and modernisation commenced mid-way through 2016-17 and has particularly impacted on the work of Development Management. Overall, the direction of change is about ‘front-loading’ planning applications towards providing clear and consistent advice before a planning application is received and managing planning application processing to provide a quicker and smoother process to benefit all customers: applicants, partners and the local community.

Progress has been made with implementing the Improvement Plan and some improvements have been made to key performance indicators, however there remains considerable scope for further performance improvement to be made. For example, processing agreements and project management arrangements are now required for all major developments and have already been seen to deliver key projects on time, for example the application for the next phase of regeneration in Raploch.

The Annual Report highlights that we are on course to replace the adopted Local Development Plan well within the five year timeframe, with a Proposed Plan currently at Examination. It is anticipated the new plan will be adopted in December 2017, just over three years from the adoption of the current Stirling Local Development Plan. Meanwhile, work is ongoing to consolidate and update the Council’s suite of 36 Supplementary Guidance documents in order that they can be re-adopted alongside Local Development Plan 2, where required.

Progress has also been made in improving the supply of effective housing land with an increase from 3.9 years to 4.9 years, albeit this is still below the target of a five year supply. The report outlines how the planning service continues to support housing growth and work proactively with developers and landowners to bring forward sites for development, including through the preparation of a Site Delivery Document to accompany the annual Housing Land Audit. There was also an increase in the take-up of land for employment uses reported during 2016/17.

With regard to Planning Enforcement, there was a big increase in the number of cases resolved and an updated Enforcement Charter has been published which explains the role of Stirling Council’s Planning Enforcement Service, outlines the procedures and sets out the standards of service to be expected.

The PPF sets out the progress made against service improvements laid out 2015-16, many of which were ‘core business’. The most substantive improvements introduced in the last 12 months, however, were not those identified in previous PPFs but through the Improvement Plan.  These are also outlined in the report in addition to the improvement actions identified for 2017-18, which are largely those identified in the Improvement Plan.

Both the PPF and the Improvement Plan recognise that that improvement requires to be continuous; with 360° feedback and monitoring driving improvements for subsequent years. This year we have sought the views of stakeholders – councillors, architects, developer and the community – on how we are performing as a Planning Service, bringing about a new culture of performance management with our customers at the heart of driving our improvements. This year we will explore further how to achieve stakeholder feedback.

The PPF was submitted to the Scottish Government who will provide feedback on the report and the Council’s performance towards the end of the year.

You can view the Stirling Council Planning Service Annual Report 2016/17 here:

Stirling Names – Buttwell and Dumyat


For the prudish, Butt in this context is nothing to do with derrieres, rather it’s connected to archery butts where people practiced archery, a vital military skill, which were placed in the Butt Park behind the well. After 1507 the Butt Park was the focus of jousting for Kings James IVth and Vth. The Butt Well is the well next to the Butt Park, and is fed by a spring from the under the castle. The earliest reference to the well appears to be from 1582, when it was known as the Spout Well. At the bottom left of the well is worn depression caused by the erosion of hundreds of feet over the centuries stooping to fill buckets from the well. If the niche is original and not a Victorian addition then it likely held an icon of a saint which would have been removed after the reformation.

Butt Well


Dumyat is the oldest name in Stirling and relates not to the hill but to the prehistoric hillfort just below it (now known as Castle Law). Dumyat is a corruption of Dun Maeatae, which means the ‘fort of the Maeatae’.

Dumyat & WallMon

The Maeatae is the original name for the tribe that lived in Stirling around 200 AD and their name also survives in Myot Hill near Falkirk (Maeatae Hill). The Maeatae formed an alliance with the Caledonians to the North and this was the reason given by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus for his invasion of Scotland in 208, he also said that he wanted to toughen his children up on the wild barbarian frontier…….he’d obviously seen the city on Saturday night! Septimius stayed at Craigarnhall on his campaign north, which means that for a brief couple of days in 208 Stirling was the capitol of the Roman Empire!

Material Considerations

The planning application assessment process, in its simplest form, consists of three main stages. The first involves consulting the policies and guidance in the Local Development Plan, including any supplementary guidance and national guidelines. The next stage is considering whether the proposal is in line with the policies and guidance identified. The third stage involves identifying any material planning considerations that could justify a departure from policy.


DM Blog 2__



Therefore, when considering a proposal an officer can take into account material planning considerations.  These cover a wide range of issues including:


Blog 3_diagram2


Weight varies in every instance, it’s not about ticking all of these. Only one material consideration needs to be valid for an officer to be able to depart from planning policy, however this must be of significant importance to do so.

Therefore, when making a comment on an application, whether positive or negative, try to stick to issues that are material planning considerations as these hold validity in the planning process and can be used when considering whether to recommend the approval or refusal of an application. Issues that are not material considerations cannot be considered when assessing an application, these include:


Blog 3_diagram3


Further information on what is and is not a material planning consideration can be found at: