Urgent action must be taken to secure the future of one of Perth’s most historic buildings, according to a former councillor.
In his role as chairman of Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park Group, Norman Renfrew attacked the council’s lack of commitment to maintaining the B-listed tower which overlooks the Tay from a dramatic rocky outcrop.
He said the council had been quick to condemn the owners of other listed buildings for their neglect – notably in the case of St Paul’s Church in the city – but claimed they were not speaking from a position of strength.
Mr Renfrew, 79, of Riverview Park, Perth said the tower is second in its iconic status only to St John’s Kirk in the city centre.
He said: “The council’s record of maintaining its own List B building is not good.
“In 2012 the council did a survey of the tower and the report recommended repairs costing £6,000. They were never done. The next survey was due in 2015.”
Concerned about the issue Mr Renfrew obtained the council’s position via a Freedom of Information request which revealed that the 2015 survey did not take place due to a “reprioritisation of work to suit available resources”.
The FOI response went on: “The resources issue has also led to the condition survey programme being reprioritised and reorganised to suit not only the number of staff, but a risk assessment for each building. Therefore, the tower is due to be surveyed in 2018.”
The revelation shocked Mr Renfrew who said: “That is hardly the view of an enthusiastic guardian of a List B icon.
“Perth and Kinross is a council with good resources of funds but obviously chooses not to put enough into heritage buildings maintenance.
“What actually is the state of the tower? A tech-savvy member of the public has, with permission, done a drone survey. This shows serious cracking of the tower with much missing mortar.
“Surely repair cannot wait till a 2018 survey?”
MSP Murdo Fraser said action must be taken to preserve an iconic piece of local history.
“Ensuring that listed buildings are maintained is incredibly important and by not undertaking repair work early the council is storing up expensive problems for the future,” he said.
“With Kinnoull Hill enthusiasts noting further decay to the stonework, Perth and Kinross Council cannot afford to wait until 2018 before carrying out an additional survey and it would be folly to do so.”
Councillor and MSP Alexander Stewart agreed saying the tower must not be “left to rot”.
“This is part of the culture, tradition and history of the community,” he said.
A council spokesperson said there was light at the end of the tunnel in securing the future of the tower.
“Perth and Kinross Council Property Services have been approached by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (PKHT) in connection with the development of a conservation project for the tower on Kinnoull Hill.
“The council has agreed to PKHT’s proposals in principle although this agreement is subject to all necessary checks being carried out.
“The council would retain ownership of the tower and any works undertaken by PKHT would be underwritten to ensure responsibility for any defects following completion.
“Independent surveys do not suggest any major work on the structure is required.”
The spokesman added that while St Paul’s Church is a privately-owned building, the authority is working with the owner on securing repairs “or alternatively taking further action itself in respect of repair with a view to potential acquisition.”
An historic feature inspired by the Rhine
A castellated folly dramatically sited on the extreme edge of Kinnoull Hill, the tower was built in 1829 by Lord Grey of Kinfauns.
The dramatic cliffs on the south side of Kinnoull Hill reminded the 9th Earl of Kinnoull of the lofty crags along the Rhine Valley in Germany and the fairy tale castles that dot the rocky outcrops there.
He felt that Perth needed its own version of those castles so he erected fantasy towers on top of Binn Hill, which is in private ownership, and at Kinnoull Hill.
Consisting of a round tower set between walls, battlements and arches, the Kinnoull tower is a popular destination for walkers.