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Plan to transform derelict buildings near Inverness into new holiday resort meets with opposition

By Val Sweeney

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Self-catering accommodation and a spa are planned for the site if the development is approved.
Self-catering accommodation and a spa are planned for the site if the development is approved.

Derelict historic agricultural buildings to the west of Inverness could be transformed into a £3 million rural retreat comprising self-catering accommodation and a spa.

The proposed venture –Blackstone Retreat – is at Ladystone Steading above Bunchrew but it has run into opposition from nearby residents and Kirkhill and Bunchrew Community Council citing road safety concerns.

They maintain the proposed access via Leachkin Brae, a narrow steep single track road, and a track forming part of the Great Glen Way and used by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders is unsuitable.

The application to develop 10 short-term holiday units at the site overlooking Beauly Firth has been submitted to Highland Council by Dualchas Architects on behalf of city businesswoman Christy Marshall.

A report states the proposed conversion will bring new life to the building and create 30 jobs during the two-year construction plus 10 permanent jobs on site.

It states it will generate a range of economic and social benefits at a time when the economic outlook for the UK is far from certain.

“Blackstone Retreat can make a unique and substantial contribution to the economic resilience of the local area and the economic wellbeing of its residents,” the report states.

The aim is to link up with other local businesses such as producers, chefs and catering businesses and bike hire companies.

Other plans include group excursions to local attractions and providing space for classes in activities such as yoga, pilates, pottery, painting and cooking.

Access to the steading is along Ladystone Road, an unadopted road with passing places, crossing a small railway bridge and adjoining the A862 at Bunchrew.

Instead, alternative access has been proposed using Leachkin Brae which is accessed from General Booth Road.

But the plans have sparked objections from local residents including John Watt and Margaret Brown, of Ladystone Farmhouse, who fear residents and road users will be left with the issue of how best to maintain unadopted roads amid increasing traffic levels.

“This application must be refused due to the poor road infrastructure from Bunchrew and Leachkin,” they state.

Gail Brown, of Upper Leachkin, says new homes have put additional strain on the narrow Leachkin Brae.

“Leachkin Brae has problems every winter with surface water run-off and ice eroding the edges of the tarmac and the lower passing places become rutted and dangerous with black ice and loose stones,” she says.

Kirkhill and Bunchrew Community Council fears traffic will access the A862 using Ladystone Road which is says is in a poor and deteriorating condition and crosses a substandard railway bridge.

“The alternative access proposed to Leachkin is a substandard deteriorating temporary surface which is unlikely to be used,” it states

However, Ladystone residents Clem and Margaret Cuthbert welcomed the project, saying it will turn an eyesore into a building consistent with the area.

A spokesman for Dualchas Architects said: “We believe that the project is an appropriate re-use of these buildings, dealing sensitively with the historic fabric and the agricultural landscape.

“Access has been looked at carefully but the detailed proposals will be resolved in due course.”

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