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

By Philip Murray

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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.

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a multimillion-pound food and drink hub and convenience store on land at the entrance to North Kessock must be blocked as they fly in the face of the local development plan, Green politicians have argued.

MSP Ariane Burgess and the Highlands and Islands Green Party co-convenor Anne Thomas, have both hit out at the proposals for the hub on land next to the roundabout as motorists exit the A9's northbound carriageway.

The plans, which also include a drive-thru eatery and electric vehicle (EV) chargers, have sparked opposition among nearby residents in Barclay Gardens who are concerned at the loss of green space and possible increases in traffic and litter.

And the community council – while yet to take a stance on the proposals themselves – has been critical of the way the plan by applicant West Coast Estates was 'sprung' upon the community with no notice and with a very short consultation window for people to express their views.

Those complaints have now been added to by Ms Burgess and Ms Thomas, who argue that the land in question is zoned in Highland Council's local development plan for a "park-and-ride, with some retail" and that the application does not fulfill those criteria.

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

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

Ms Thomas, who lives in North Kessock, said: "Whilst locals were expecting some sort of development for this site, a drive-through is not what most were expecting.

"It risks bringing a lot more traffic to a busy roundabout, litter, noise and smells to nearby residents, and aims to draw traffic from the A9 into the village which is the opposite of the local plan which aims to reduce traffic and zones it for park-and-ride with some retail.

Anne Thomas, local resident and community councillor.
Anne Thomas, local resident and community councillor.

"There is no bus stop within the development or any intention to increase bus services to the village, which are reduced compared with when we first moved to the village 17 years ago.

"I'm concerned that the layout does not indicate the existing cycle and walking route which is part of the National Cycle Route 1 and goes immediately behind half the site and under the underpass. This has recently been upgraded with money from Sustrans and further ward funding for some fantastic murals on the underpass organised by the community council.

She continued: "An opportunity to provide a facility aimed at the many passing cyclists such as a small café and to retain some of the open space for locals to enjoy has been lost. The EV charging is to be welcomed as there is currently none in the village. However EV charging facilities should be balanced with the needs of cyclists, walkers and wheelchair users and a scale of development appropriate to the space with appropriate screening for locals."

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.

Ms Burgess added: “I was surprised by the scale and location of this planned development. The area is a well-used amenity green space and well located to support more sustainable traffic infrastructure, such as active travel routes and a park-and-ride.

"We are in a climate emergency and we know that we all need to play our part in cutting emissions. As a growing city, Inverness needs to encourage the growth of sustainable local businesses, not drive-thrus that embed increased emissions and air pollution into their business model.

"Transport emissions are Scotland's single largest source of greenhouse gases and the Scottish Government has committed to reducing car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030, yet the business model for drive-thrus is built around encouraging people to drive rather than walk or cycle."

Ariane Burgess MSP.
Ariane Burgess MSP.

"Research from Coventry University at 10 drive-thrus across the UK found that levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter peaked at many times the standard limit. This has a detrimental effect on the health of staff, customers and local communities."

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

They also claimed they had received a lot of positive feedback and said the development would create jobs, with the application claiming up to 100 roles could be created.

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