More than one hundred people gathered to witness the unveiling of a group of standing stones to mark the founding of the New Town of Tornagrain today (Thursday 27 August 2015).
John Stuart, Earl of Moray was joined by Scottish Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing and Provost of Inverness, Councillor Helen Carmichael to collectively unveil the stones and officially mark the start of work at Tornagrain.
The new town of Tornagrain, which will ultimately be home to more than 10,000 people, will take between 50 and 60 years to build. The original masterplan was created by leading US architect Andres Duany.
Local residents, elected representatives and people involved in the development of the project were all on hand to witness the ceremony which follows a tradition used by early communities.
As Lord Moray explained: “Standing stones have been part of the landscape for many centuries in Scotland, particularly in the North. We thought this would be an appropriate way to mark the start of what is very much a new community, but one which builds upon the best traditions of design over past centuries in some of our best-loved communities.”
Standing stones are a feature of the North of Scotland and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although their original purpose is shrouded in mystery, it is believed they were used to mark new settlements and other points of interest such as burial sites or places of worship. They were sometimes used to mark gathering places, such as a camp site on a drover’s road.
The stones at Tornagrain weigh 10-15 tonnes and are made of granite, they are from Park Quarry, Nairn and were moved to the site last week.
Each guest at the ceremony was given a small stone, carved with their initials, and laid them around the standing stones, as part of the proceedings. The small stones will be used to create the setting for the standing stones when they move to their permanent position in the main public park of Tornagrain.
The new town will include almost 5,000 homes, almost 80 hectares of parks and open spaces, three primary schools and one secondary school. Shops, libraries, churches, healthcare facilities and community halls all form part of the blueprint.
Guests at the ceremony had the opportunity to see computer generated images of the first phase of houses, including the first neighbourhood square.
Outline planning permission for the development was granted by Highland Council in 2012 after many years of community consultation which included public meetings, exhibitions and a series of newsletters. The consultation programme included the first use of a Charrette in Scotland – a 10 day intensive design process which helped generate the masterplan.
The town will be built in a number of phases with the first being for 190 houses. Tornagrain will commence life as a village which will expand before ultimately developing into a town approximately the size of Nairn or Forres.
Tornagrain is one of the eleven exemplar projects selected by the Scottish Government as part of the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative. The scheme aims to improve the quality of the planned environment by encouraging the creation of places, designed and built to last, where a high quality of life can be achieved.
The original masterplan for the town was created by leading architect, Andres Duany, who was a founding member of the New Urbanism movement which advocates a return to traditional town planning. They aim to create sustainable towns which are walkable and rely more on public transport and less on cars. This is partly achieved by locating homes closer to jobs.
The town is part of a wider investment by Moray Estates in the Castle Stuart area, land once owned by the Pictish Kings.
Castle Stuart golf links, soon to be extended with a second course designed by Arnold Palmer, will again be hosting the Scottish Open next year.
The town also sits next to the Inverness Airport Business Park which is a partnership between Moray Estates, Highlands and Islands Airports and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, with the support of Highland Council.