Nairn’s leading councillor has been warned to stay out of a debate about a planning application that is arguably the most controversial to hit the town.
Lawyers have urged provost Liz MacDonald to withhold her views on the Nairn South housing development.
The SNP councillor cannot take part in discussions about the scheme next week over fears of a conflict of interest. She owns 12 acres on the east end of town and Highland Council’s legal team is concerned any objection to Nairn South could be construed as favouring her own land for future development.
A home building consortium’s bid to build 232 houses and 87 flats at Cawdor Road was approved by the local authority last month.
But the authority has agreed to re-examine that decision on Wednesday after a blunder was spotted in the planning report.
Community councillors fear the town’s road network will not cope with the extra homes and are calling for people to show the strength of their opposition by joining a protest being planned outside Highland Council’s headquarters at Glenurquhart Road.
The application was approved because there were no planning grounds for its objection. The site at Cawdor Road is zoned for housing in the Highland Wide Local Development Plan.
SNP councillor Liz MacDonald, elected the council’s political leader for the town and who quit her provost’s role, has in the past voiced her objections to the Nairn South development.
But she believes any contribution she could possibly make to Wednesday’s debate will not alter the turn of events.
"If I spoke out against the scheme and there was an appeal, the developers could say quite legitimately that I was favouring my own land," she said.
"I am heeding legal advice and stepping back. I do not see that there is anything that can be done to overturn the scheme. The application for Nairn South is in line with the Highland Wide Development Plan, which sets the policy.
"As long as the developer’s have got a similar amount of housing and the same foot path for land, it cannot be refused. And if it was it would be won on appeal."