Mixed feelings as work starts on £23.94 million housing development

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A £23.94 million housing development in Fort William is already raising community concerns just as work gets under way.

Work on the affordable homes in Upper Achintore began earlier this month when the Link Group marked the start of a five-zone master plan to build more than 300 homes in the area.

The first phase of the development will deliver 82 affordable homes – a mix of one to four-bedroom properties for social and mid-market rent and New Supply Shared Equity sale. Five of the homes will be fully wheelchair accessible.

Link Group Commercial Director Colin Culross said: ‘We look forward to working with our partners, JR Construction (Scotland) Ltd, WGC Scotland Ltd and TSL Contractors Ltd, to deliver these new, affordable and sustainable homes to the area, improving housing choices for the community.

‘In addition, we aim to provide 32 jobs for local people through our contractors as part of our commitment to community benefit in procurement.’

The development is being supported by the Scottish Government and Highland Council which are providing funding of £12.8 million and £2 million respectively.

Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Local Government and Housing Shona Robison said: ‘We want everyone to have a safe, warm affordable home that meets their needs.

‘I am delighted the Scottish Government has provided £12.8 million to support the delivery of these 82 high-quality, energy efficient affordable homes for rent and ownership in Fort William.’

Highland Council Leader Councillor Margaret Davidson, added: ‘It is very good to see work begin on the Upper Achintore development, which will provide much-needed, sustainable and affordable homes for people in Fort William.

‘The £2m greener infrastructure investment by Highland Council underlines the local authority’s commitment to enable developers to get moving with infrastructure to enable housing sites to progress.’

But while the development has been welcomed in principle by Upper Achintore Regeneration Group, chairman Mark Linfield shared their reservations about the project: ‘We recognise the local need for affordable housing but remain seriously concerned about the excessive number of houses – twice the number set out in the adopted Local Plan),’ he told the Lochaber Times.

‘Also of concern is the poor layout – they have abandoned the friendly and successful cul-de-sac layout already prevalent in Upper Achintore – the flood risk impact on the existing housing lower down the hill created by removing so much peat and the very principle of removing and exporting more than 17,000 cubic metres of peat in Phase 1 and how this sits with the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan.’

A phased programme of handovers with completion of the homes has been targeted for April 2024.

Photograph (February 2020): The proposed development of Upper Achintore is extensive, taking in 325 homes across a significant part of the community. Upper-Achintore-development.jpg Upper-Achintore-development.jpg