Blueprint for future Inverness and inner Moray Firth development passes first step in approval
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Inverness councillors have given the green light to a new environmentally conscious blueprint guiding all major infrastructure and development projects within the city and inner Moray Firth.
Members of Highland Council’s Inverness area committee approved a report that will now be put out to public consultation in the new year.
The Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan review could have far-reaching implications for the future of the city and its hinterland, greatly influencing the shape of private sector investment.
Following approval by all relevant council area committees which conclude in December, a ‘main issues report’ on the plan will be put to a minimum eight-week public review with all interested parties encouraged to have their say.
Given that current Scottish Government Covid-19 advice is likely to limit face-to-face consultation events, the council says it is designing an easy-to-use online document to gather people’s views.
The local authority will seek to promote the consultation widely, with letters sent to notify people about the consultation and how they can comment.
Inverness provost, Cllr Helen Carmichael said: “Members have been very impressed with the huge amount of work carried out by officers on the production of the main issues report and its contents that affect the city of Inverness and the Inverness area.
“We have approved the report and thank officers for their professionalism.
“We also support the officers’ recommendations for the public consultation process and we support the very important role that the plan will play in addressing the council’s climate and ecological emergency declaration, the economic recovery of Inverness city and area.”
Among the most significant strands to the new local plan is a greater emphasis on increasing the availability of affordable housing in the city.
There is also great emphasis on the council’s climate emergency objectives, with one priority to “embed walking and cycling as the logical choice and easiest way” to make journeys across the city centre.
Development on empty and disused sites will be favoured amid moves to preserve green spaces in and around Inverness and the local area.
One consequence of that could be a block on controversial moves to redevelop the former fairways golf course with housing.
The plan instead looks at potential development of sites such as the harbour area of the Longman Industrial Estate, where a new urban quarter is proposed, and the Porterfield Prison site in Crown once vacated.
Developments closer to the city centre and those providing diverse office, business, healthcare and community use would be favoured.
There would also be movies to invest in schools to ensure growth of the city is met by greater classroom capacity, including investment and expansion at Culloden Academy.
Beyond the city bounds, with planned decommissioning at Fort George, the local development plan would seek to respect the army base’s historical integrity and scheduled monument listing.
Sympathetic business developments would be favoured debut housing is deemed inappropriate.
A long-proposed new town development at Whiteness near Ardersier would also be likely to fall.
Vacant for 20 years, the former fabrication site was previously earmarked for housing, tourism, a marina, school and other business opportunities.
The local plan envisages only industrial-type development at the site in the shape of a new energy hub.