Upper Achintore residents’ anger over housing threat to Cow Hill

PRAT TRACK HOUSES PROTEST 12/3/19 Objectors Kevin and Janet Hickman with Rhona Grant. Picture Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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More than 50 residents of the Upper Achintore area of Fort William are said to be up in arms over proposals to build as many as 325 new houses on land bordering the lower slopes of Cow Hill.

Any objections to Link Housing’s application for planning permission in principle for the site east of the town’s Lochaber Road must be lodged by March 28.

But angry residents say, contrary to recent media reports, the proposed new houses have not been welcomed by local people, and claim there have been only two, poorly advertised, public consultations and that only a handful of homeowners in the area have actually received official notification of the plans.

There is also a further application pending from Link Housing, this time for full planning consent, for phase one of the development including the formation of roads, access, drainage, foundations, ground works and services infrastructure for all phases of development and erection of 176 houses and associated works.

The residents are objecting on various grounds, including fears the local Lundavra Primary School, which already has 212 pupils, would struggle to cope with a large-scale influx of new children.

Protester Janet Hickman told us: ‘Lundavra School site was chosen as it was thought to be the best site for a new school for Upper Achintore. However, if this development is to go ahead, why was it not sited on the Angus Crescent proposed site which was rejected by the council?’

Objectors have also raised issues of increased congestion along Lundavra Road, the threat of flooding, the removal of peat vital to carbon capture and tackling climate change and the impact on the natural environment with the area home to everything from cuckoos and dragonflies to deer, warblers and lesser butterfly orchids.

Rhona Grant is another local resident who is deeply unhappy. ‘Why on earth are they proposing to house families all the way up there? Elderly people probably as well? It doesn’t make any sense,’ she said.

Mrs Hickman added: ‘Housing is needed in Fort William, but Cow Hill is not the place for it. It is unsuitable for all the reasons stated above.

‘There are many people who object to it, including householders below it who could see their homes flooded, young and older people who use the area for recreation and a place of peace from their busy lives and the wildlife whose home it is.’

Contacted on Tuesday, Link Housing told us no-one would be available to answer media inquiries for two days.

However, Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Andrew Baxter said: ‘It’s important that residents, whether they are in favour or opposed, are able to have their say.

‘I’ve heard many arguments in favour and against. The planning committee must take all of those things into account when making its final decision.’