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Tennis court floodlight plans approved by Highland Council for Bellfield Park in Inverness despite residents’ light pollution worries

By Philip Murray

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Tennis courts at Bellfield Park. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Tennis courts at Bellfield Park. Picture: Gary Anthony.

Floodlighting plans at an Inverness park that sparked light pollution concerns among nearby residents have been given the green light.

Highland Council planners have approved the proposal to install 10 eight-metre tall lighting columns at the long-established tennis courts in Bellfield Park.

The new floodlights would be used on four of the courts and are intended to replace existing, but temporary, lighting at the site.

But their location within the Inverness Riverside Conservation Area sparked concerns they might be out of character with the immediate vicinity.

And some residents were worried that light from the columns might shine into their properties as well.

The council's historic environment team also objected to the plans, arguing that the 10 eight-metre poles would be "significant in itself, but the visual impact will be greatly exacerbated by the bulky light fittings on top... and will appear visually obtrusive within this heritage parkland setting".

The environmental health and forestry officers also asked for conditions to be attached.

The former argued that although modelling showed that any light pollution would fall below limits for "pre-curfew" times, two of seven locations exceeded them when applied to "post-curfew" conditions. Normal curfew times, when the lights should be switched off to ensure neighbours are not inconvenienced, range from 9pm to 11pm at night and last until 7am.

The forestry officer meanwhile said that while no trees would be lost as a result of the plans, the need to prune six of them to accommodate the poles was "not ideal" as it would likely mean that trees would need to be maintained regularly to manage future growth near the lights.

The two teams asked for conditions to be attached, with the lights barred from use after 10pm - a cut-off time that had already been suggested by Highland Council as the applicant - and that no works will take place on any trees other than those agreed by the council.

Approving the plans, subject to those agreed conditions, council officers added that the trees helped to mask some of the poles from the wider conservation area, and that the lighting would boost the long-term viability of the tennis courts.

They said: “While the proposal will have an impact on the character and appearance of the Riverside Conservation Area, it is considered that this has to be carefully assessed within the leisure function of the site, and the screening of it. The columns’ impact will be relatively spatially limited.

“Within this context, the proposal is considered to be acceptable, and on balance, is assessed as having a neutral impact on the character or appearance of the established recreational use of the park.”

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