PLANS to build a small block of tourist apartments in a historic Inverness street have been rejected.
Neil and Catriona Cameron – owners of the city’s popular Mustard Seed and The Kitchen restaurants – wanted to demolish a flat-roofed building in the grounds of the B-listed Ross House in Ardross Street and build a four-storey contemporary building made up of eight serviced apartments in the gap site.
But Highland Council planning officers using delegated powers refused the application, saying it would be detrimental to the surrounding residential area.
The couple are appealing against the decision.
The proposed development, in a conservation area, is close to important historic buildings and attracted several objections including one from the Provost of nearby Inverness Cathedral.
Mr Cameron hopes the council’s planning review body will overturn the decision and approve the proposal which was put forward alongside plans to convert Ross House into eight serviced apartments, which have been given the go-ahead.
The overall project will cost about £1.5 million.
“We are very disappointed,” he said. “We had gone through the whole process under the recommended system of the planning design review committee which is an independent body made up of experts who were broadly in favour of the development.
“We have spent a great deal of money with a lot of positive comments from planning officers and the design committee.
“But we have taken on board all the comments from objectors and everyone.”
Mr Cameron said a compromise might be a mews-style development towards the back of the site which might be more agreeable to objectors, but he wanted to see the decision of the review board first.
“We run two prominent successful city centre restaurants and there is a vast increase in tourists in the city centre,” he said. “We hope to add to the provision of high-quality serviced apartments.
“Ultimately, we have a good track record running businesses in Inverness for almost 20 years. We employ over 70 people and we are looking to grow that.”
The designs of both The Mustard Seed and The Kitchen attracted criticism at the time of their development but went on to win awards.
“What we showed with The Kitchen investment is that we are not in the habit of doing something which is based purely on economic influences,” Mr Cameron said.
In turning down the application, council planning officers stated: “The proposal would result in a significant adverse impact on residential amenity due to the scale/massing of the development.
“Sensitive siting and high-quality design in keeping with local character and the historic environment has not been demonstrated.”
It was also felt the proposed new building did not make a positive contribution to the architectural and visual quality of the area and failed to demonstrate there was no adverse impact on the surrounding heritage.
A letter submitted on behalf of the Provost of Inverness Cathedral, Rev Sarah Murray, and Morgan Murray, stated that although they were sympathetic to a proposed development, they felt the design was totally out of keeping with the surrounding buildings and contrary to the local development plan.