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1745 Battle Trust Stooshie? Not really, but there are significant issues to resolve .. very soon!

Is there a problem then?

Well, Yes. If you've got a moment or two please read on:

When the Battle Trust was first established in 2006 it was planned to create a Living History Centre at the Battle Bing at Meadowmill. It's a superb [if always windy] vantage spot to see the whole sequence of events and in the 1970s East Lothian Regional Council placed interpreation plates at the top. The Trust has also flown the Prince's red/ white square Battle Flag since 2008. But engineering studies showed such a location would be enormously costly and in any event Meadowmill is designated for significant sporting development in the coming decade.

So alternatives were explored of which the most sensible seemed to be the Prestongrange Heritage Park. All Panners accept it has been neglected since the National Mining Museum originally planned there by David Spence in the late 1960s went instead to Newtongrange. The Heritage Park is a beautiful seashore location and already contains two Listed structures, the Hoffman Kiln of the old Prestongrange Brickworks and the 'Cornish Tin Mining' Beam Engine - moreover Historic Scotland is concerned to see that they are better conserved and interpreted in the future.

At a meeting of the East Lothian Council Petitions Committee in January 2010 [the Trust had petitioned for ELC to take better care of a number of memorials relating to the Battle in 1745], the Prestongrange Heritage Park location was discussed and it was agreed to explore how the Trust might become a suitable tenant there. Structural surveys were undertaken by the Trust on the BathHouse and architectural plans were created for its renovation with a new pavilion alongside to house the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry. Throughout, however, the Trust has always insisted there was no point in locating at the Prestongrange Heritage Park unless the 'other' elements already there were restored and functioning well. Professional economic assessment studies for the Trust showed that if this was done upwards of 100,000 visitors could be expected each year - making the whole social enterprise potentially self-sustaining which the Trust has always insisted it must be.

In December 2010 the Scottish Parliament was petitioned for its support including the outline plans at Prestongrange Heritage Park. An appeal for donations [now approaching 100,000] was launched towards the cost of the Trust's ambitions and a home for the Tapestry which has already attracted more than 100,000 visitors across Scotland and England and this month it goes to France.

The problem with all this? Thus far East Lothian Council has not agreed to allow the Trust to become a tenant ...

.... and there's the rub! The discussions ELC characterised as 'constructive' have not led to a basis for 'action' by the Trust. So far as the Trust is concerned a clear commitment [or rejection] is required sooner rather than later. The Trust sees the matter as urgent - overwhelmingly because it needs a permanent home for the Tapestry. ELC takes a longer perspective, and has been doing so ever since the National Coal Mining Museum project was conceded to Newtongrange. That hiatus is now approaching 50 years ... The East Lothian Courier picked up the story as given below.

Why invite the Minister to The Pans then for April 2012?

Quite frankly, the Trust had expected to be well down the track with ELC approval by mid 2010, then by 2011, and then by 2012. As such there would be a total scheme to present to the Minister and Historic Scotland seeking their support that 'our' battlefield should be next in priority nationwide for major investment. First it was Culloden; for 2014 it is Bannockburn; the Trust wishes Prestonpans to be next as and when national resources permit. That's what the Trust's Petition to Parliament in December 2010 had sought.

Early in 2011, before the Holyrood elections, the Minister accepted the Trust's invitation to visit and it was just a matter of setting the date. At the Minister's suggestion, discussions began with Historic Scotland early in 2011 as to how matters might progress. The Architectural Heritage Fund agreed to finnace a comprehensive evaluation of the two Listed structures. But ELC Officers indicated that they would prefer to do that themselves rather than the Battle Trust. The Trust defered, but ELC did not proceed.

As late as February 2012 it had been strongly rumoured that a specific capital budget commitment for Prestongrange Heritage Park would be made by ELC's SNP/ Liberal Democrat Coalition. Accordingly a date was finally set for the Minister to come in mid-April.

But the rumours were incorrect. At that 'constructive meeting' with representatives of the Trust in March 2012 ELC Officers confirmed there was no 'specific commitment' [despite nominal mention being made], no agreement that the Trust might locate at Prestongrange Heritage Park, and no apparent 'political pressure' to make it happen. The Trust was advised to wait until after the May 2012 elections to see what eventuated.

And so the Trust asked the Minister not to come in April after all ...

There was little else the Trust could do. ELC Officers made it clear it would be inappropriate for the Minister to visit the Prestongrange Heritage Park. The Trust had nothing to discuss, no firm proposals to advance.

.... and, contrary to such suggestion, there are no 'elements' in the Trust that are more or less frustrated than any others! To set that record straight, a follow-up letter was despatched to East Lothian Courier as shown below.

What next?

The Trust is asking all ELC political party leaders, and all candidates in the ELC Municipal Elections of May 3rd, whether they support the Trust's proposal to locate to the Prestongrange Heritage Park in the context of a 'total' regeneration plan for the whole Park.

If the answer is a 'Yes' from whichever candidates and parties become the Cabinet for ELC from May 4th 2012, then the Trust will seek to return immediately to discussions to find an effective, early, path forward. If the answer is Maybe/ No, the Trust has formally committed to seek other possible locations.

The attractions of a total Living History Centre for Pans History at the Prestongrange Heritage Park are so great that the Trust very very much hopes for a Yes.

Here's hoping!

In the capital, the Edinburgh Evening News also picked up the storyline:

Published Date: April 18th 2012

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