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Expansion plans at out-of-town retail park at Inshes in Inverness are inappropriate and should not be supported, say Highland Council officers

By Val Sweeney

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Permission is being sought for a three-year extension of planning permission to expand the retail park at Inshes.
Permission is being sought for a three-year extension of planning permission to expand the retail park at Inshes.

Renewed plans for a multimillion-pound expansion at an out-of-town retail park in Inverness are inappropriate and should not be supported, according to Highland Council officers.

Proposals to develop shops, a public house and restaurant, community allotments plus car parking and new access roads next to Inshes retail park were first put forward eight years ago.

Aberdeen Standard Investments is now seeking a three-year extension of planning permission in principle – given in 2017 following a public inquiry – to enable further applications regarding conditions to be approved.

But the council’s development plans team says there have been major changes since planning permission was given and the development would be against existing council policy.

The officers’ submission comes in the wake of concerns raised by the owners of the Eastgate Shopping Centre about the development’s potential impact on the city centre which is still dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its submission, the development plans team states: “The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has been widely acknowledged to have accelerated the decline of town and city centre retail, which has been the dominant land use.

“Consequently, there are many vacant retail and other commercial spaces in the city centre.”

It says a recent appraisal for another planning application identified 16,760sq m of vacant retail space in the city centre.

The statement continues: “Highland Council has declared a climate and ecological emergency, meaning all future development proposals have a role to play in achieving net zero.

“It is considered that this large-scale retail park expansion proposal is remote from the city centre, is dominated by private car use, and is of a scale and design that is inappropriate and should therefore not be supported.”

They contend that based on the information submitted, the layout and design of the site is for “big box” retail units, which offer little to the quality of the built environment and represent an outdated offer for the city.

“Coupled with the principal elevations and active frontages of proposed buildings being dominated by an expansive car park the design and layout is of a poor quality, which is inappropriate to the local setting,” they state.

They cite neighbouring sites, such as Inverness Campus which demonstrate locally distinctive high-quality design, with services, parking and other ancillary functions incorporated sensitively, and a clear people-centred approach to public realm.

They add the proposed community uses for food growing are inappropriately located between the A9 trunk road and rear services of large retail units.

Concerns over plans for out-of-town retail-site

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