Update on the shooting ranges near Samye Ling - a letter from Lama Zangmo
Posted on 5 Dec 2021
I hope you have been well and healthy, and that you may continue to thrive during this extended period of lockdown.
I am sorry to be writing to you about this topic - nuns and guns don’t usually go well together - but since many people have been asking for news about the rifle ranges in Eskdalemuir, we thought it would be helpful to send out an update. However, if this does not relate to you, I apologise for burdening you with this email.
This email is especially meant for those of you who registered an objection earlier this year to a planning application for a rifle range less than two kilometres from Samye Ling Monastery. We were informed there were 3194 objections. Thank you for your support!
The range operators (Gardners Guns, the applicant) and the landowners (Eskdalemuir Forestry) have now launched an appeal to the Scottish Government in order to push through planning permission. If you registered an objection you will be an “interested party”, and you may therefore receive official notification from the council of this appeal informing you of your right to make representations. Below is some information about the appeal which might be helpful.
When the application for planning permission was first made, the applicant incorrectly stated that the matter should be dealt with as a “local application” and that a public consultation was not necessary. The planning department took advice from an independent barrister who advised that the matter should proceed as a “major application” requiring public consultation. The planning department therefore stated that the applicant should resubmit the application in proper form, which would involve public consultation.
In order to push through the planning application, the applicant has now launched an appeal process to this decision, which started locally in Dumfries and has since then gone to the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government has indicated that they will take into account all “material planning considerations”.
Rokpa Trust has submitted a detailed response to the appeal. The planning arguments advanced by Rokpa Trust in its submission to the Scottish Government are:
Management and Safety. The applicants state that they are offering leisure facilities as a gun club. However, they are offering military type training with a type of guns much more powerful than would be used in a gun club. We have argued that the safety measures are inadequate.
Impact on Samye Ling as a religious institution. Under the Equality Act 2010 the planning authorities are required to give Samye Ling the same consideration that they would give to a Christian institution. We have argued that a rifle range very close to a Christian holy place would be unacceptable and that it should be disallowed near a Buddhist monastery.
International importance of Samye Ling. We have argued that Samye Ling is the headquarter of a world wide network of Buddhist Centres and receives visitors from all over the world.
The rifle ranges infringe Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees freedom to practice religion and that this freedom is impaired by the disturbance caused.
Right to Roam. Samye Ling is a major tourist attraction, and the Scottish Tourist Board describes it as located in “a quiet rural setting”. The Range will have a major impact on the right to roam and the safe enjoyment of the countryside, which is what many visitors come searching for.
Financial impact. The range will make Samye Ling less attractive and visitor numbers are likely to be reduced, impacting on the economy of Samye Ling. Samye ling contributes to the local economy, which would also be negatively impacted.
Local community. The application for planning permission fails to consider the impact on the local community living in the valley.
Plans for more ranges. The applicant has established other ranges in the area and has announced an intention to establish 6 ranges in the area. The ranges should not be considered in isolation, but as part of a much bigger scheme to establish rifle ranges over a wide area.
What you can do
You can write to the Scottish Government objecting to the appeal.
Your email should be addressed to Christine Brown : Christine.Brown@gov.scot
Your email should bear the reference: PDEA. Ref PPA-170-2157 and should be headed “Rifle Range in Clerkhill Eskdalemuir”
The content of your objection should be in your own words. To have a number of objections all worded the same is useless. A short email to the point is sufficient.
The emphasis of your objection should be “material planning considerations”. Objections based on opposition to the gun culture are not a material planning consideration and is unlikely to carry much weight.
It is helpful to point out the applicants` unreasonable attempt to avoid a public consultation.
If you have been contacted by the council with a notification of the appeal, please state the date when you received official notification. The deadline for objections is 14 days from notification. If you haven’t received any notification, please also mention this in your letter.
To see the case details on the Scottish Government Planning and Environmental Appeals Division website, please click on this link.
From Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoce’s bookRestoring the Balance:
"Perhaps one of the biggest lessons we can learn is that all aspects of life, ranging from the world we inhabit to the subtle balance of our minds, are interdependent. This means that everything affects everything else.”
Thank you for your continued support.
Rokpa Trust trustee,
On behalf of the trustees.