Councillors confirm rejection of smallholder’s pagan shrine bid

An artist's interpretation of the pagan deity Herne the Hunter.
An artist's interpretation of the pagan deity Herne the Hunter.

A Peeblesshire man who wants to create a pagan shrine on his land has this week failed in his bid to get the required planning consent.

Drawings submitted to Scottish Borders Council by Andrew Cleghorn indicate he intends erecting a statue of the 14th century mythical deity Herne the Hunter on a plinth at his eight-acre smallholding at Kirkburn, Cardrona.

In April, the 52-year-old former bricklayer sought planning permission from the council for the erection of the plinth, along with “an altar and sacred well” as part of an application which included the erection of a two-storey building for the cold storage of rare-breed poultry.

But concerns over the visual impact of that building on a site – on the back road to Peebles and within the designated Tweed Valley Special Landscape Area – led local planning officer Craig Miller to refuse the entire application.

On Monday, Mr Cleghorn took his appeal against that decision to SBC’s nine-councillor local review body (LRB).

A submission on his behalf claimed he required the poultry building to “maximise the production” of the smallholding.

With regard to the proposed shrine, the submission stated: “Mr Cleghorn is guided by the pagan earth gods and wishes to create a special space for private worship.

“The low-impact sacred well and altar/statue stance will be sited at the source of a spring on the hill, with a view over the valley ... where private meditation and worship can be carried out without impact to others.”

The submission acknowledged that Mr Cleghorn has had several planning appeals rejected in the recent past, including unsuccessful bids for a mushroom growing shed and another building in which to rear rabbits.

“Each idea has been extinguished by the planning department [of SBC] without further consideration of the validity of the proposals,” claimed the submission.

“There is also a suggestion he is being persecuted to the point of not being allowed to follow his own religious leanings within his home and smallholding.”

Reporting to the LRB, Mr Miller said none of the previous reasons for refusal had been resolved and the proposals would have “a significant detrimental impact on the character and quality of the designated landscape”.

Mr Miller said the applicant had also failed to demonstrate any economic justification for the development or shown that it would not have an adverse impact on road safety and the amenity of neighbours.

The review body concurred and rejected Mr Cleghorn’s appeal as well as confirming the refusal of another of his recent planning applications – for a flotation pool for cattle “for the therapy and tonal improvement of the stock”.

Councillor Iain Gillespie, a former vet, observed: “In my experience, cows are not that keen on swimming”.

Mr Cleghorn declined to comment after the meeting.

Legend has it that Herne the Hunter was the antlered keeper of Windsor Forest which came under the control of the pagan Angles in the early Middle Ages.