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Highland Council officers deliver scathing report criticising planned Inverness hotel at Ironworks site

By Val Sweeney

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An artist's impression of the proposed 162-bedroom Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Academy Street.
An artist's impression of the proposed 162-bedroom Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Academy Street.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to knock down the Ironworks music venue in Inverness and replace it with a £25 million seven-storey hotel have been dealt a body blow.

Developers of the Academy Street site have been told to go back to the drawing board in a scathing assessment by Highland Council officials.

Bricks Group has submitted plans to demolish the popular live music spot and build a 162-bedroom Courtyard by Marriott Hotel on the site. The proposed hotel will cater for up to 100,000 guests a year and include a 24-hour gym.

Following discussions with council planning officers, it has amended the design but the council’s historic environment team has now lodged objections, describing it as devoid of architectural quality.

Andrew Puls, principal officer for building conservation and environment, raises “significant concerns” over the scale, height, massing and bulk of the main hotel block and adverse visual impact on nearby listed buildings and the surrounding conservation area.

“While we would welcome contemporary design, this location demands a proposal of exemplary architectural quality, which would enhance its heritage context,” he stated.

“If a building of the scale and mass proposed was to be acceptable in this location, we would expect a higher quality design.”

He said it should better relate and reflect the character of Academy Street and the built heritage in the wider riverside conservation area.

“Unfortunately, the proposal as submitted is devoid of architectural quality in its monolithic blocks and featureless cladding,” he stated.

“Quality in the detail design and materiality will be vital to enliven the façades of such a large and featureless proposal, to respond to its historic context, but both are sadly lacking.”

He said there would be serious concerns in conservation terms and the application was difficult to support.

“In this case, the proposal will adversely impact a wide range of the city’s heritage assets and we must therefore object to the proposal,” he said.

“We would strongly advise the applicant to withdraw the application and consider the site afresh.”

Concerns about the plans have also been raised by Historic Environment Scotland and Fortrose resident Morag Macdonald, who has lodged an objection. Another anonymous objector said it would be one of three Marriott hotels in the area, as one is planned for Glebe Street and another is already open at Inverness Airport.

Invernessian Allan Davidson, chief operating officer of Bricks Group, said the project would create 100 construction jobs and 60 permanent hotel jobs at a time when the Highland economy badly needs significant fresh investment.

“Accordingly, we have liaised with council planning officials over a considerable period and found them positive and helpful,” he said.

“We found the council’s design review panel highly constructive and we have implemented adjustments to our design which the panel recommended.

“This included lowering the height at the front of the hotel and altering the pitch of the roof to complement the height of Academy Street.

“The rest of the building would be outside the conservation area.

“The report is one piece of the wider planning assessment which officials will place before elected members. We’re content to wait until the full process is completed before making observations in detail.”

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