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Business community calls for Highland Council to review development plan

By Gregor White

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Expected growth at Highland ports, including the Port of Cromarty Firth, needs to be accompanied by more housing business leaders say.
Expected growth at Highland ports, including the Port of Cromarty Firth, needs to be accompanied by more housing business leaders say.

Highland business leaders are calling on councillors to ‘seize the opportunity’ of the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport to boost what they say is critical infrastructure.

The coalition of companies across the housebuilding, industrial and business development sectors wants Highland Council to take a fresh look at the Inner Moray Firth Proposed Local Development Plan (IMFPLDP), raising concerns about housing provision they say is essential for the future of local communities and to meet the demand the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport (ICFGF) will create.

Businesses making the call include the region’s main home builders and all four major ports, as well as organisations including the Green Freeport itself, Prosper (formally SCDI) and the Inverness Chamber of Commerce.

Citing estimates that the Highlands will need around 2000 new homes each year firms says the current iteration of the Local Development Plan allows for only 800.

It is hoped the Freeport will create more than 10,000 new jobs in the area and a further 6000 across the UK, as well as attracting over £3 billion of fresh investment.

Investment in local ports across the region includes a new high voltage cable factory in Nigg, redevelopment plans for Ardersier Port and development plans for the Port of Cromarty Firth.

In addition, Inverness-based Aurora Energy has announced it has secured investment to expand its network and help support the country’s green energy supply chain.

Innes Smith, chief executive of housebuilder Springfield Properties, said: “Springfield has worked across the Highlands for decades and we are passionate about its growth and development.

"Unfortunately, the proposed Local Development Plan fails to address the emerging opportunities and risks being a critical constraint to economic growth and our collective ambition for the region.

“There is an acknowledged need for energy efficient new homes in the region and this will only become more acute as the Freeport and other developments progress.

"New homes support and generate employment, help to prevent rent increases, contribute to local services and enhance local authority revenue through council tax. However, if we cannot get ahead of this, it will ultimately impact on investment into the region, as businesses and local people are forced to move elsewhere.

“For these reasons, we are asking the council to do the right thing and look at the plan again. Our elected representatives have a huge opportunity, and we are urging them to seize it.”

Calum MacPherson, chief executive of Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, dsid: “There is a great deal of positive momentum behind us and a strong appetite to realise the transformational benefits we know the region needs.

"Highland Council support has been pivotal to achieving Green Freeport status and the progress to date.

"The Freeport has the potential to sustain Highland jobs and communities for generations, but to realise this goal we need to have supporting infrastructure and a key part of this is housing.

“We encourage the creation of high-quality housing of mixed size and tenure that will cater to the demands of people now and into the future.”

The full list of organisations supporting the call for action are:

Albyn Housing Society

Barratt Homes

Capstone Construction

Cromarty Firth Port Authority

David Wilson Homes

GEG Capital and Global Energy Group (Port of Nigg)

Green Freeport

Haventus (Ardersier Port)

Highland Housing Alliance

Inverness Chamber of Commerce

Kirkwood Homes

Kirkwood Timber Frame

Pat Munro Homes

Port of Inverness

Prosper (Formerly SCDI)

Robertson Residential Group

Scotia Homes

Springfield Properties PLC

Tulloch Homes

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