Time running out to build Dunbeg’s 300 houses

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Delays are putting pressure on a plan to build 300 houses in Dunbeg – before a deadline to spend £35 million of Scottish Government funding expires, ‘worried’ councillors heard last week.

With time running short to complete the project before 2021, the council’s planning committee is seeking an earlier ‘special’ hearing to decide the application in July during the recess, though officers seemed unimpressed.

Argyll and Bute Council was awarded £1.9 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund last November to upgrade Kirk Road in Dunbeg, but ‘some slippage’ in ‘the award timeline’ ‘delayed engagement with the preferred contractor, utilities companies and the council’.

Despite this, councillors on the Planning and Resources Committee heard scrub clearance and tree felling have been completed, Scottish Water has begun work on the sewer and water main, and the council’s preferred contractor has signed the main contract finalising the Kirk Road programme of construction, which is ‘likely’ to end in October 2018.

A report presented in the Kilmory chamber last Thursday continued: ‘Link Housing Association submitted a detailed planning consent for 300 new homes in April that will now be considered through the planning process and, if approved, will be accessed by the improved Kirk Road. It should also be noted that the Scottish Government has approved funding of £35 million to help deliver this housing development by 2021.’

The planning application is due to be heard by the council’s planning committee in August but, owing to the tight deadline to finish the project before the government’s funding expires, councillors asked for a ‘special’ hearing, perhaps in July during the council’s recess.

The council’s head of governance and law, Charles Reppke, said: ‘It would be possible [to hold an earlier planning meeting], but you [councillors] would need to consider whether it was appropriate.’

Councillor Roddy McCuish, who represents Oban South and the Isles and is also the policy lead for roads and a member of the planning committee, said: ‘I’m worried now. By August we’re getting near the winter and the worst possible time for building.’

The report also updated councillors on plans for a roundabout at the Halfway House filling station, which were approved in 2016, adding that the developer may also ‘seeking to renew planning consent for the spa resort’.

A Dunbeg Working Group, which included the council, Link Group and Dunstaffnage Estate, agreed ‘the roundabout was very much a development all parties wish to see taken forward but that the principal barrier to the roundabout’s construction was funding.

‘The council reconfirmed its willingness to invest as soon as a practical and affordable solution was identified for the financing of the project.’