Locals come out unanimously against Ballachulish peninsula development

When the meeting started, the Village Hall was full and more chairs had to be brought out to accomodate everyone. Photograph: Richard Mason

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Ballachulish Village Hall was full to the brim with concerned locals last Tuesday and the unanimous decision in the hall was against development of the peninsula.

People came to the public meeting to voice concerns about the building of 48 holiday properties on the peninsula area.

In December it was announced that Crieff Hydro and Ossian Developments, who own separate parts of the peninsula, had plans to create one- and two-bedroom luxury holiday homes.

The land closest to the A82 belongs to Crieff Hydro and is part of the Isles of Glencoe Hotel. The rest of the land on the peninsula is owned by Ossian and the main talking point at the meeting.
This map shows the proposal for holiday properties across all parts of the peninsula. Photograph: Laurence Young

As soon as the meeting began there were strong opinions expressed against any sort of development from locals who frequently use the area and do not want it spoiled.

Most simply wanted the land to be left as it is and maintained to a higher standard and the possibility of a community buy-out had a lot of support.

Chairman of the Ballachulish Community Council Kevin Smith made clear that his view was not that of the full council, but a community buy-out would need a clear vision and someone to lead it.

He said: ‘The following area is zoned for commercial and tourist development, the community seems to be against any development. This raises the issue of a developer going for planning consent and Highland Council passing the plans. We should – if the community desire – go for the whole area involved and put it to commercial uses: workshop units or other on the peninsula opposite the Arch for benefit of the community.

‘I got the impression that the community members left the meeting as being finished, but as we were only talking to one developer the other owner may have a completely different stance.’

The luxury accommodation is designed to blend in naturally to the landscape. Photograph: Laurence Young

Laurence Young, who runs Ossian Developments and is leading this project, was at the meeting and despite the strong feeling against the project, he is hoping to show the community what they can get from it.

He said: ‘We really valued the strong turn-out at the meeting on the 7th and its helpful to get community input on their preferences for the area.  We haven’t yet had the chance to present to the community on the merits and advantages of our proposals– this meeting has long been set for January 26.  Respecting the community views, we are now reviewing the situation.’

Mr Young mentioned that the Ballachulish Community Action Plan for 2016-2021 calls for making more of the waterfront, working with tourism businesses to extend the potential of Ballachulish and making the most of the environment and heritage.

To this end, he is welcoming other potential ideas for use of the land.

Mr Young continued: ‘There were some interesting views expressed at the meeting around community enterprise, youth engagement, interpretation of historic sites, employment. Whilst some folk were keen on simply “wilding”, there was a strand that looked to activity on the site that might create different types of employment (apart from tourism) and develop the natural attractions of the site for tourist enjoyment.’

While one holiday accommodation owner told the meeting that the area needed no more places for people to stay, Davina Melton, who runs Glencoe Independent Hostel, was the only voice at the meeting to speak in favour of part of the development.

She said: ‘I am in favour of some development, but not as it is proposed with the 48 properties. About a third of that would be much better and only on the smaller part of the peninsula, the land owned by Crieff Hydro.

‘While the consensus was quite unanimous in the hall, I have spoken with people who were not there that have a differing view and I feel that if this goes to a ballot, the result would not be quite so black and white.’

Mrs Melton also mentioned that for a development of such a large scale, the owners would find it difficult to recruit staff.

‘We find it difficult to fill all the roles we need and do not have nearly the same size of development as this.’ continued Mrs Melton, ‘Even the Kingshouse Hotel is not fully staffed yet and when Brexit happens our European friends will be much more difficult to come by.’