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Rose Street student flats approval recommendation welcomed by Inverness business leaders

By Philip Murray

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An artist's impression of the new student flats.
An artist's impression of the new student flats.

RECOMMENDATIONS that a controversial block of student flats be approved have been welcomed by Inverness business leaders ahead of a key vote.

Council planners are recommending that councillors vote in favour of the 100-bedroom block in Rose Street when they meet next week.

If the five-storey building gets the green light, the former Rose Street Hall and neighbouring two-deck car park would be demolished to make way for it. Seventy-five new parking spaces would also be provided to offset some of those lost.

The proposals have drawn criticism from the Inverness Civic Trust, which branded the flats’ design "unsophisticated".

But just days before councillors are due to vote, Inverness Business Improvement District (BID) has spoken out in favour of the scheme.

The development includes provision for three shops and a restaurant on the ground floor. And BID believes the new retail outlets and an influx of students will be a major boost for the city centre.

Its chairman, Craig Duncan, said: "BID has long been arguing that student accommodation is essential to reinvigorate this area adjacent to Academy Street. So we are delighted that Inverness Properties has brought forward this proposal and that it is being recommended for approval by the planning officer.

"It is essential to increase footfall in this area and this type of student accommodation will be part of the mix needed." He also welcomed provision in the plans for a future bus lane linking into Farraline Park.

Two objections have been lodged over Inverness Properties’ plans, including one from the civic trust. It argues that although it supports the principle of student accommodation, it has concerns over a perceived lack of civic space and the style of the building.

Crown and City Centre Community Council has given general support to the proposals and said the provision of student accommodation would be an opportunity to boost the economy and vitality of the Academy Street area.

Recommending approval, planners said the design took a lead from the existing Strothers Lane flats and "did not appear incongruous in the particular setting".

They added that the plans were more acceptable than original proposals for three blocks of flats at the site, the tallest of which would have dwarfed the nearby multi-storey car park.

Those plans were rejected by the council last year, sparking the revised application.

The planners said: "There can be no doubt that the current proposal has taken heed of many of the concerns expressed on consideration of the previous proposal and has significantly reduced the footprint of the development.

"The provision of replacement parking is acknowledged as an issue in that it limits the opportunity for civic space, but at the same time provides good pedestrian links through the site and access to Academy Street."

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