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If the 325 proposed new houses for Upper Achintore get the green light from planners, it could help eradicate homelessness in Lochaber within the next few years.
So says Alex Farquhar, chairman of Fort William Community Council and a member of the board of management of Lochaber Housing Association for the past decade.
Mr Farquhar is concerned that only negative viewpoints on the development at Upper Achintore are getting media coverage.
Back in March, the Lochaber Times reported that more than 200 objections to the planning application from Link Housing had been lodged with Highland Council.
If the development does get the go-ahead, it is expected Lochaber Housing Association would manage of some of the properties.
Mr Farquhar believes his 10 years on the housing association’s board have given him a deep insight into the housing situation facing Lochaber.
‘I recently attended a tenants’ meeting and the vast majority of them, and others I have spoken with, are more concerned that there is close oversight of this development at Upper Achintore when it comes to things like roads, drains and bus routes,’ he said.
‘There are approximately 650 new houses currently in the planning process to be built locally – including those proposed for Upper Achintore – and that is almost the exact same number as those currently languishing on the housing list.
‘We are close to being able to eliminate homelessness completely in Lochaber. Imagine being able to say we have rid Lochaber of homelessness. How fantastic would that be?
‘The impact that giving someone a warm and comfortable house to live in can be life transforming for the better. It has to be seen to be believed.
‘But there have been many inaccurate statements made about the Upper Achintore development and I am very concerned the whole picture is not being presented to the public.
‘This is an area of land that has been allocated for housing for about 40 years and it has taken seven or eight years for the Upper Achintore project to get to this stage.
‘People say the homes will be for workers at the new alloy wheels factory but the truth is it would be a mixed development, with some for sale, some for rent and some as affordable housing, and many would be allocated according to the existing housing waiting list.’
Mr Farquhar confirmed a public meeting will be held on May 27 (the venue is still to be decided), which Link Housing will attend.
Lochaber Foodbank manager Alex McConachie agreed there was a desperate need for more homes in the Fort William area.
‘We see quite a few people at the foodbank who are homeless and that’s worrying,’ he said.
‘More homes would certainly help and there were always plans for more houses to be spread out when they were first building Upper Achintore.’