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Residents vow to fight North Kessock A9 food and drink hub plan over traffic concerns

By Philip Murray

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Residents united: Lianne Cumming, Anne Thomas, Austin Warwick-Milne, Ethan Cumming, Hazel Cumming, Gary Milne and Catriona Warwick. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Residents united: Lianne Cumming, Anne Thomas, Austin Warwick-Milne, Ethan Cumming, Hazel Cumming, Gary Milne and Catriona Warwick. Picture: James Mackenzie.

WORRIED residents in North Kessock have vowed to fight plans for a new food and drink hub at the entrance to their village – amid concerns over traffic and its impact on local green space.

West Coast Estates (WCE) recently submitted an application for the hub next to the A9's northern carriageway on land opposite Barclay Gardens. The site sits next to the roundabout motorists encounter when they turn off the A9 into North Kessock.

The land is currently empty green space and scrubland, but locals in neighbouring homes say it is widely used by residents walking pets, children playing, and add that it is teeming with wildlife.

They worry that the land's loss will deprive them of much needed open space, and also increase traffic levels – putting pedestrians at greater risk.

Related: New A9 food and drink hub 'to create up to 100 jobs' at North Kessock, claims developer

One such resident is Catriona Warwick, who has urged councillors to vote against the proposal.

She explained: "I do not want this to go ahead. We are somewhere we are happy and that is about to be ruined. Living here has been bliss for us and I have watched my whole family's mental health improve as a result of living here. A business park in this site would destroy natural habitat for wildlife and ruin a natural beauty spot that is popular with cyclists and hikers.

"It would aggravate problems with boy racers and remove local trade from Harry Gows [at its A9 outlet to the south]."

Knockbain Community Council, which covers North Kessock, is a statutory consultee which will be submitting views on the plans to Highland Council before the local authority makes a decision. Its chairman John Stott stressed that the community council had yet to meet to decide its views and did not wish to prejudge it.

But he did say he was "very, very angry" that the application was sprung upon the community with no notice, adding that the community council had faced "abuse" from people who mistakenly believed they had to have known about the application ahead of time.

He said: "[I'm] very, very angry that they didn't give the community council a heads-up because we took a lot of abuse.

"The company launched its Facebook [and application website] at the same time as they submitted their application.People assumed we knew about it, which we did not. It's ridiculous, quite ridiculous to our mind."

He added that the community council had contacted the company and its agents to ask for an extension to the consultation given the group is a statutory consultee.

"The company [had] asked for comments on its plan by August 24. But it's not possible to organise a meeting in that time."

He said he had written to the company, local ward councillors and to Highland Council to see if the consultation process might be extended to give people a better chance to air their views.

Mr Stott explained: "[This application] is not something that can be decided in 10 minutes. The faster it goes the less chance [for people to have their say]. We'd be very keen for them to have drop-in sessions."

Knockbain Community Council has urged anyone with views to submit them through Highland Council's planning department.

Asked if Highland Council would extend the consultation, a spokesman explained that the developer's consultation was the applicant's own in-house one and "a matter for the applicants to comment on".

They added: “Anyone who wishes to comment or object to a planning application should lodge their comments through the official planning process to ensure that any material considerations raised are taken into account.”

The planning application is open for public comment on the council’s eplanning website at: https://wam.highland.gov.uk/wam/ by putting 23/03666/FUL into the search.

West Coast Estates has promised to hold a drop-in session in response to community concerns.

Iftikar Mian, its director, said: “We fully appreciate the community council's concerns and we are in the process of arranging an information drop-in session to allow local residents and interested parties the opportunity to view project material, and discuss plans directly with members of the project team.

“We are conscious there is keen interest in our proposals, and we look forward to discussing our plans in-person with interested members of the local community.”

He claimed the firm had received a lot of positive feedback and said the development would create jobs.

He did not say if the firm would extend its consultation deadline.

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