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Surprise decision sees councillors grant the Ironworks a reprieve as plans to demolish the main music venue in Inverness and build a hotel were deferred for further consideration of the planning application

By Scott Maclennan

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The redrawn proposal for a Courtyard By Marriott hotel at the Ironworks site on Academy Street
The redrawn proposal for a Courtyard By Marriott hotel at the Ironworks site on Academy Street

The best known and most popular live music and events venue as the Ironworks has been granted a reprieve by Highland Council.

Members of the south planning applications committee voted to defer the application after local Councillor Michael Cameron tabled a motion to defer it.

He argued that he did not feel he had enough information in the application as it stands and after being approached by concerned members of the public felt the best choice was to defer the decision.

Planners had recommended approving a proposal to demolish the Ironworks as Bricks Capital sought to create a £30 million seven-storey, 155 bedroom Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

But councillors on the south planning applications committee came close to rejecting it outright when Nairn councillor Laurie Fraser tabled an amendment to refuse planning permission on conservation grounds.

He said: "It reminds me of a monolithic block and I don't like the tower block part, the way it hang over."

Cllr Bill Lobban agreed, slamming the plans as like "something designed in the Soviet Union."

The developer has been trying since 2019 to establish a hotel on the site and news of the deferral will come as a blow.

Bricks said the hotel could have accommodated up to 100,000 visitors a year, and create 90 construction jobs for two years followed by 65 full-time hospitality jobs.

Live Music Fans

The proposals triggered a significant response from the public, who had enjoyed the venue for years and no doubt many will be delighted that all is not yet lost.

Some had already started mourning the loss of the venue and what it brings to the city centre.

Among those who sent their views to the Courier, some acknowledged the need for more hotel room but not at the expense of a one of its kind venue.

Steve Raeburn said: “If approved this (will) confirm Inverness is a town playing at being a city! We will be a city without a venue capable of hosting any decent sized music events!”

Linda Anne Wilson said: “I really hope the right decision is made. Save The Ironworks Venue. We don’t need another hotel, we do need a city centre music venue.”

Andy McIvor: “No way should Ironworks be demolished for a hotel! Plenty other sites could be found, I’m sure. But Inverness badly needs more hotel rooms.”

From refusing to deferring planning permission

In 2020, the south planning applications committee originally refused to grant planning permission after unusually vociferous criticism of the plans.

The council’s Historic Environment Team said the design was “monolithic”, “featureless” and “devoid of architectural quality” while members decried it as unattractive and out of keeping with its surroundings.

Redrawn plans by CRGP Architects was submitted after Bricks said they “listened and learned” through months of close liaison with planners and city centre stakeholders.

The move appeared to pay off as there was a sea change in attitudes after meetings with the council’s Inverness Design Review Panel.

The panel's executive summary from October last year makes praised the new plans as a “much-improved design."

Consequently, the new application was recommended for approval but it failed to make it past the planning committee.

What Next?

The developer could wait it out and see if the plans will pass at the next meeting of the planning committee.

While the venue cannot yet be demolished it is still a possibility that the hotel will be built eventually.

The plans will likely come back to the next planning meeting in a few months and then the Ironworks future will be decided.

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