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Fresh eyes on Inverness city centre hotel design for Ironworks site

By Louise Glen

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The redesigned Courtyard By Marriott Hotel as it would look viewed from Chapel Street.
The redesigned Courtyard By Marriott Hotel as it would look viewed from Chapel Street.

Developers are pinning their hopes on redrawn plans to persuade councillors to finally give the go-ahead for a new hotel on the site of Inverness’s Ironworks music venue.

Previous proposals by Bricks Hotels were rejected in December last year, with councillors not prepared to approve a seven-storey building they branded unattractive and out of keeping with its surroundings.

Elected members followed the recommendation of the council’s Historic Environment Team (HET) in rejecting the scheme after they labelled it “devoid of architectural quality”, singling out “its monolithic blocks” and “featureless cladding.”

The HET said the hotel building as then proposed would badly impact not just the Riverside Conservation Area, but also views of the city as a whole.

The development is being led by Bricks Hotels’ Inverness-born chief operating officer Allan Davidson and now new proposals by city-based architect Brian MacFadzen, of CRGP Ltd, see the proposed Courtyard by Marriott hotel reduced to three storeys as it would face on to Academy Street.

The revised design for the 160-bedroom hotel also incorporates a “civic space” with trees and a retail unit likely to house a 24-hour gym open to both residents and the public.

It would rise to five storeys on the Rose Street frontage, although it would also be tiered slightly to allow views of surrounding spires and towers, according to the architects.

Mr MacFadzen, who chaired a public meeting to share initial plans, said the vision had been completely reimagined since it was rejected by Highland Council’s south planning committee.

He said: “We have been looking at this with fresh eyes, and we engaged with Highland Council planners from the earliest point to find out what would work for Inverness.

An artist's impression showing the view from Friars Lane.
An artist's impression showing the view from Friars Lane.

“There are significant changes to the designs that were previously put forward.

“This is my city too, so we want to make sure we are building something that we can be proud of, something that will bring joy.

“One half of the building is in a conservation site and the other is in a non-listed area. There are four sides to the building and each of those views have to be in keeping with the surrounding area.”

He added: “We have heard and done our uttermost to address the concerns raised in the public consultation.

“We are working on a planning application that will be finalised and lodged with Highland Council at the end of the month. It is hoped that the proposal will go before a planning committee in September.

“The life that this building will bring to the city centre will be quite incredible. It will be fantastic to see. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design an international building for our city.”

He said the hotel could expect to welcome 100,000 visitors a year, with around 100 jobs created in the construction phase and 60 posts if and when the hotel opens.

A mix of traditional and contemporary materials are planned for the building, with a pitched roof and sandstone cladding for the Academy Street frontage, in keeping with other properties within the conservation area.

A dark grey roof in slate or metal is being proposed to the back of the building where upper storeys would also be decorated with either a zinc or metal cladding with a render.

Architects believe the design on the Rose Street side would be in keeping with the design for the Hampton by Hilton hotel that has already been approved for the site of the former open-air car park there.

There will be no additional parking space created as part of the development, with the team believing most customers will arrive by public transport given the proposed hotel’s close proximity to the city’s bus and railway stations and city centre connections with the airport.

READ: The Ironworks could still be demolished amid plans for student accommodation despite planning refusal for a £25 million hotel on the site

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