Falkirk Council: National Trust no plans for visitor centre at iconic Pineapple

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The National Trust for Scotland has said it has no plans of its own for a visitor centre at the Dunmore Pineapple as it continues to oppose a private developer’s plans to build one near the famous landmark.

A representative of NTS said on Thursday that the Pineapple “is not top of our priorities” when he attended an online hearing that gave new members of Falkirk Council’s planning committee background to the long-running application, before they make a final decision.

Members heard how George Russell Construction Ltd wants to build a visitor centre with a cafe, tourist information and toilets on land at Airth Mains Farm, close to the famous folly.

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However, in order to do so, the company also wants to build 82 bungalows, for people aged 55 and over only. These are necessary, it says, to fund the development and a new roundabout to improve access from the A905.

An artist's impression of how the new visitor centre could lookAn artist's impression of how the new visitor centre could look
An artist's impression of how the new visitor centre could look

Speaking on behalf of the developer, David Jones said the centre would put the Pineapple on the visitor map alongside the Kelpies, the Falkirk Wheel and Callendar House.

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“At the present, visitors to the Pineapple have no facilities, restricted accessibility and no means to stay longer than the time it takes to see the iconic structure,” he told the hearing.

The planning application initially was for just 22 bungalows, and this was granted planning permission – but the cost of improving the access meant that was no longer viable.

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One of the questions councillors were keen to get an answer to was whether the Trust might have its own plans for the distinctive building.

Stuart Maxwell, regional director for NTS, told councillors that the Pineapple “is not top of our priority to invest in just now and we wouldn’t put a visitor centre there”.

Mr Maxwell said the Trust was objecting on the grounds that it was against Scottish planning policy and against Falkirk’s current Local Development Plan. But he also told councillors that the trust was not convinced that the visitor centre would be a success.

“We have experience of running visitor centres and we would question whether it is sustainable,” he said.

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However, responding to a question from Councillor James Kerr, Mr Maxwell said he did not think that the construction – or even the operation – of the visitor centre would disturb the Pineapple.

“I don’t think we have any concerns about the construction of it or the placement of it – I can’t see the Pineapple being overwhelmed with visitors, so it’s not going to cause any issue that way and any construction I’d imagine would be fairly self-contained,” said.

He added that having more visitors might bring in donations while more footfall would “actually help with the anti-social behaviour we suffer there”.

“We have a 10-year strategy, we have numerous buildings and to be honest the Pineapple is not top of our priority to invest in just now and we wouldn’t put a visitor centre there.”

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Thursday’s pre-determination hearing was the second that the council has held as so many new councillors are now in place since the last hearing.

Inevitably, the meeting repeated many topics of the previous hearing, with questions concentrating on the impact on biodiversity and the capacity of local schools and the NHS to cope with more housing.

Councillors also heard once again from several Airth residents who say the plans will have a massive impact on the natural beauty of the quiet area which is very popular with walkers.

They also heard from Community Council chair Jon Answell, who said that they are remaining neutral until a public meeting can be held regarding the increased number of houses that is being proposed.

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He did stress, however, the need for improved access and better facilities at the Pineapple, where coaches can’t get entry to the narrow roads.

He said: “For the community council and for Airth, the provision of a visitor centre is essential – that area gets very dangerous on Saturdays and Sundays with the amount of traffic and other issues in that area.”

All of the evidence will be considered before the planning committee meets to determine it and as yet there is no date for that meeting.