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Builder set to take appeal over Highland Council’s rejection of 47-home plan for Loch Ness village to Scottish Government reporter

By Alasdair Fraser

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Drumnadrochit couple Katie and Michael are on Springfield's mailing list after expressing interest in buying one of the rejected 47 homes in the builders' latest proposal.
Drumnadrochit couple Katie and Michael are on Springfield's mailing list after expressing interest in buying one of the rejected 47 homes in the builders' latest proposal.

A home builder is set to appeal Highland Council’s refusal to sanction a major housing development proposed for Drumnadrochit.

Springfield Properties expressed “surprise and disappointment” at February’s rejection of the second phase building of 47 homes on land at Drum Farm, south of the Loch Ness-side village’s fire station.

It says the move has dashed the hopes of almost 500 interested buyers at a “critical need for high-quality housing throughout the Highlands”.

But community representatives have raised concerns about the firm’s removal of a 15-house a year requirement previously imposed by the Scottish Government reporter which they say would allow the village to grow “organically” without overwhelming schools and services.

They are also concerned that the latest Springfield proposals fail to meet recommendations on associated commercial development.

The company confirmed it would take the case back to the government reporter

It says refusal was contrary to recommendations for approval by council officials following an assessment that confirmed the proposal complied with national and local planning policy requirements.

Building work on the first phase of development, featuring around 20 affordable and 11 private homes, is about to be completed with just one home left for sale.

Springfield describes the second phase, featuring larger homes, as “much needed high-quality housing and infrastructure in the village.”

The application falls within a larger site allocated for residential development in the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan.

Dave Main, Springfield Properties’ managing director (north), said: “We were surprised and disappointed to see our plans for Drumnadrochit refused, particularly given the critical need for high-quality housing throughout the Highlands.

“We know there is a need to generate and sustain local employment for the existing community and that additional housing is essential to meet the demands of the upcoming investment the Green Freeport will attract.

“There is no option other than to provide this critical infrastructure.

“Many of the interested buyers on our ever-increasing mailing list share our sentiment, many of whom have grown up in the village and want to stay here.

“There’s a clear public appetite and economic benefit for these homes and we remain optimistic that our appeal to the Scottish Government will result in a favourable outcome.”

The Springfield project has a controversial history.

Originally designated for 55 houses in the local plan, an application for 94 homes was rejected by council planners but approved on appeal to the Scottish Government with conditions set.

Conditions for phase two included a build rate of 15 houses a year maximum and the inclusion of commercial units skirting the development.

Councillors rejected the latest proposal on the grounds there was not sufficient reason to overturn those conditions set by the Scottish reporter.

Glen Urquhart Community Council has written to the reporter raising those local concerns.

Chairwoman Dianne Fraser said: “We’re disappointed with the level of Springfield’s community engagement.

“We welcome development of the village, but we would like the development to respect the nature of Drumnadrochit and what’s important to the community which is retaining a heart - we need some non-housing investment.

“We don’t want to be just a commuter belt for Inverness.

“Fifteen houses a year would ensure schools and services were not overwhelmed. They are now looking to get rid of that completely.

“When Tulloch quickly built 80 houses at the bottom of the village in the late 90s that really overwhelmed Drumnadrochit.”

However, one potential first time buyer Katie MacDiarmid (27), who has been on the Springfield mailing list for over a year with her fiancé Michael, said: “I’ve lived in Drumnadrochit my whole life and always dreamed of staying here.

“As a nurse at Raigmore Hospital, I love being able to come home to the countryside and it’s such a beautiful place to live.

“As a first time buyer it’s been a real struggle so far as the high demand is pushing most properties in the area far above our budget.

“I was devastated to hear of the Highland Councils’ decision to reject the phase two plans.”

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