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Controversial bid for multimillion-pound drive-thru and electric charging hub in North Kessock wins support of council officer

By Neil MacPhail

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An artist's impression of the proposed food & drink hub, convenience store and EV charging station.
An artist's impression of the proposed food & drink hub, convenience store and EV charging station.

THE controversial planning application for a multimillion-pound drive-thru food outlet hub with electric vehicle (EV) charging points and convenience store near North Kessock has been backed by Highland Council's principal planner on their Development Plans Team.

The contentious issue has already led to north Green politicians calling for it to be blocked and claiming it does not meet the the local development plan.

But the council's Development Plans Team, while voicing misgivings about some aspects of the plan, believe it has merit and recommends that it be approved.

Tim Stott, Principal Planner, says in a report to the planning committee: "The site benefits from an extensive planning history, including historical consents, which all indicate its long-standing intention to host commercial uses... and this site is the only remaining part of the original commercial area of Bellfield Meadows where commercial uses could feasibly be proposed.

"The original consents for Bellfield Meadows indicated that the site would be developed as a filling station, however, in the context of the ongoing climate emergency, it would be significantly more appropriate to develop the site into an EV charging station.

"To ensure that the EV charging station remains viable, by providing amenities for patrons whilst waiting for vehicles to charge, the proposal also includes a small retail unit and drive-through restaurant.

The developer's website includes details about the site's proposed location, which would be inside the area with the orange boundary.
The developer's website includes details about the site's proposed location, which would be inside the area with the orange boundary.

"When considered in the round, the proposal would use the site to provide exceptionally high quality and much-needed amenities on the A9, bringing benefits associated with the capture of passing trade.

"At the same time, the proposal would provide much needed amenity for a growing settlement, in an area where there are currently no such amenities within a convenient walking or cycling distance.

"The proposed EV charging hub and associated supporting businesses should be seen as an essential addition to the existing road network, as no such facilities are publicly or commercially available in the area. Currently, the nearest alternative facilities are all in Inverness."

Related: New A9 food and drink hub 'to create up to 100 jobs' at North Kessock, claims developer

Related: Residents vow to fight North Kessock A9 food and drink hub plan over traffic concerns

Related: Drive-thru plan in North Kessock flouts Highland Council's local development plan zoning for park-and-ride, argue Highland Greens

Related: Date announced for controversial £6m food and drink hub drop-in session

Regarding the local development plan he said the land is allocated for commercial uses as part of the Bellfield Meadows development in the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan (IMFLDP) therefore, the principle of a proposed EV charging station with other associated business should be supported.

"Though the intentions for the site are due to change according to the Proposed IMFLDP, which has the site zoned for a park and ride facility, this doesn’t align the planning history of the site and land to the north of the A9 is where a park and ride facility could still be developed."

Mr Stott said the development represents significant investment for the local economy and job creation.

He added: "It demonstrates commitment to delivering an allocated site with new, complementary amenities for both passing trade on the A9 and the growing community of North Kessock; with sustainable refuelling infrastructure which fully aligns with the Development Plan.

"It is therefore respectfully requested that the Planning Service support this application and grant full planning permission."

The proposal has attracted nine letters of objection compared with 34 in support.

The council's transport planning section object to the drive-thru arrangement and want it dropped

The applicant West Coast Estates has plans to hold a drop-in session for local residents in response to community concerns.

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