Glenkingie development appeal is met with Caol reception

Resisdents of Glenkingie Terrace who are opposed to the proposed development of the grassland behind their houses. Photograph: Iain Ferguson -alba.photos.

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A campaign to prevent the building of 18 affordable homes in Caol has been stepped up after developers lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government.

The proposed development would be built on a popular play area for local children. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

The planning application from Lochaber Housing Association for permission to develop grassland to the rear of Glenkingie Terrace, Glenkingie Street and Kilmallie Road was refused by Highland Council back in April.

However, acting on behalf of the developer, Inverness-based Communties Housing Trust lodged an appeal with the higher authority on July 20. Highland council were given until August 10 to respond but in the meantime campaigners against the development have launched a petition which at the time of writing had gathered 314 signatures.

Glenkingie Terrace where the proposed development may further restrict the already limited parking. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Caol Community Council and a large number of residents had already objected to the scheme and petition author Joanne Mathers, who is also one of the affected residents, told us: ‘It was extremely disappointing to hear about the appeal, particularly when the whole community, including residents and local councillors, came together to realise the detrimental impact of losing the green space and parking was too great.

‘Throughout Covid lockdowns this space was a sanctuary for all who used it and essential in maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing.

‘I hope in hearing the petition comments the Scottish Government really consider the best needs for the community in retaining green spaces here and throughout the rest of Scotland.

‘The petition will be put forward to the case officer, with the representations forwarded to the planning authority which will be the last chance to have our say as a community.’

Back in April, Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson asked the local authority’s planning committee that the application – which was recommended for approval by planning officials – be refused and received unanimous support from other committee members, including the other Lochaber councillors present.

Speaking about this latest development Councillor Thompson said: ‘I’m disappointed to hear about this appeal and I know very many residents are of the same mind.

‘We all recognise Fort William and Lochaber faces a serious housing shortage. The housing waiting list for popular locations like Caol is over 600 applicants. I can also accept that social housing organisations are struggling with a lack of affordable, developable land on which to build new housing.

‘That said, I don’t feel the solution is to squeeze as many houses as possible into very small sites, cheek by jowl with existing residents.

‘I put forward the motion to refuse planning permission based on the density of development it would create and was glad to get the unanimous backing of other Highland Councillors.

‘That level of agreement across the board is quite unusual in my experience. Which is why I think we’re all disappointed to see the decision being taken out of local hands – effectively now to be made by a single government official in Edinburgh.’

Objectors to the build say that the application is contrary to Highland Wide Local Development Plan Policy 29 because it does not demonstrate sufficient sensitivity and respect towards existing layout and design and does not have sufficient regard to the historic pattern of development through the removal of parking and access.