Water firm forced to reduce height of new treatment works on outskirts of Highland village
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People power has forced a major public utility back to the drawing board after it failed to comply with its own plans for a controversial local development.
Scottish Water won approval to create a new waste water treatment works on the outskirts of Ardersier.
But when it was completed, locals noticed the utility giant had in fact increased the height of a thickener tank – where waste water is held and processed – as well as inlet works and an electrical substation.
After they raised objections an enforcement notice was served and Scottish Water was made to submit a retrospective application for the works.
When this came before councillors last November however, they were left dissatisfied by a lack of detail in the application, including a complete lack of visualisations.
Deferring a decision on the matter, they instructed Scottish Water to meet with locals and come back with an explanation for the deviation from their original plans.
The upshot now is that the company ultimately undertook work to bring the plant much more in line with the specifications laid out in the original plans, after which councillors gave their approval to the scheme at a recent meeting.
Chairman of Ardersier and Petty Community Council, Kevin Reid, said: "Scottish Water submitted plans to bring the height within what the original design was, along with modified plans for the inlet works."
He acknowledged many locals would still not be satisfied amid fears of further future expansion of the plant they believe could eventually be used to treat waste water from across the west of Inverness, but added: "While ultimately it’s not the result some people wanted, it now more or less complies with the original height restrictions, barring a couple of pipe-like structures on the inlet works that will be higher.
"There are still questions remaining as to how they ended up with a design that was not compliant with the height restrictions placed on them in the first place.
"But at least now it should be back to original sizing – though, of course, it would still have been preferred not to have the facility extended in its current location."
He added: "Planning is there for a reason and to blatantly build something that did not comply should see some form of sanction, otherwise it will happen again elsewhere."
A spokesperson for Scottish Water said: "We welcome the planning committee’s decision to grant consent for our revised design proposals at Ardersier Waste Water Treatment Works.
"As was reflected by the councillors’ discussion, we have worked actively with the community liaison group in Ardersier over recent months to reduce and mitigate the impact of the taller structures within the upgraded Waste Water Treatment Works as far as possible.
"We will continue to work with the community to deliver the remaining work that is needed with as little disruption as possible."
They added: "We recognise that the need for a retrospective application should not have arisen.
"A review is taking place to understand how this happened and to minimise the risk of a similar situation recurring.
"Since the issue was first brought to our attention, we have sought to do everything possible to resolve it appropriately with the local community and via the planning process."