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Highland Council to submit planning application for controversial bus gate at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness

By Val Sweeney

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Plans for a bus gate between Raigmore estate and the hospital prompted an outcry.
Plans for a bus gate between Raigmore estate and the hospital prompted an outcry.

A formal planning application is to be submitted to create a bus gate at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness after council chiefs acknowledged the strength of local feeling.

Plans to create the link – a condition of the elective care centre being built at Inverness Campus – prompted an outcry from residents, citing the felling of mature trees and a detrimental impact on those living nearby, plus a lack of consultation.

It would connect Churchill Road with the hospital site near the Centre for Health Science, with Highland Council set to submit an application within the next week.

Colin Howell, the council’s head of infrastructure, told a meeting of Raigmore Community Council, that following an internal review of the issues raised and internal meetings with officers, it had been decided a planning application was the best way forward.

"As you are aware, as a community there has been quite a lot of disquiet about the way in which we have undertaken the planning application process and in some perceived areas the lack of consultation that has occurred," he said.

The meeting also heard from council officer Garry Smith that a bat survey had revealed two types of pipistrelle bats in the area.

"They didn’t use any of the trees but they are obviously using them for foraging and food," said Mr Smith, adding the council would go back to NatureScot to look at compensatory tree planting and low-level lighting.

Resident Sam Morton, a co-founder of the campaign group against the planned bus gate, queried why the council was now suddenly seeking planning permission.

"We have not been consulted on anything at all and the thing that is going to go past my front door and it seems there has been a sudden shift which is a very good thing to happen," he said.

Mr Howell said the council had acted in strict accordance with planning legislation but the campaign group and others have been calling for a chance to be involved in a more formal consultation and the council had recognised that.

After the meeting, a council spokesman said: "Notwithstanding the delivery of the bus gate remains a planning condition on NHS for the elective care centre and the council are of the view that such a requirement is compliant with legislation, Highland Council, in recognition of the strength of local feelings and the view that the process did not allow as much consultation as they thought appropriate, has decided to formally submit a planning application for the link to Raigmore housing estate."

It would be advertised and consulted upon in the usual planning process manner.

The spokesman continued: "Committee will then consider the representations made and determine if planning should be granted for this proposal.

"The route remains as previously indicated, as the optimum and perhaps only viable route through the hospital site – to provide a vital link for sustainable bus travel – also allowing use by emergency services. The bus link will have barriers to preclude use by non-authorised vehicles.”

Community council chairman Munro Ross said it would be discussed at the next meeting on August 30 and hoped the move by Highland Council would bring the community back together again.

"We welcome the planning application and commitment to invite residents to be involved," he said.

Campaigner Denise Stewart-Thomson, of Ashton Crescent, said afterwards she and other residents would continue to campaign against the plan.

Related story: Controversial bus gate project delayed

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