Cairngorms National Park Authority

Approval for five-year vision for 6,000 new Highland homes

Inverness is regarded as a high priority area for the new homes

Inverness is regarded as a high priority area for the new homes

A five-year strategy to enable the delivery of 6,000 new homes across the Highlands, of which 2,500 will be socially rented, has been agreed by councillors.

Members of The Highland Council’s people committee have approved the council’s Local Housing Strategy for 2017 – 2022, which has indicated that 45% of the new homes will be required as a high priority in Inverness and the surrounding area.

Other communities that have also been identified in the strategy as a high priority for housing development include: Aviemore, Wick and Thurso; Fort William; Nairn; Dingwall; Ullapool and Gairloch; Portree, Boradford, Plockton and Dornie; and Dornoch, Clashmore and Embo.

Councillor Alasdair Christie, who chairs the council’s people committee, said: “I welcome this strategy which will help to deliver the council’s Programme priorities to provide homes across the Highlands so that both young and old have a secure roof over their heads; that the council and its partners will aim to build 500 new affordable homes every year for the next five years; and improve the quality and condition of the housing stock and minimise fuel poverty.”

He added: “Members have scrutinised the draft strategy and we are now confident that as a living and working document it is fit for purpose to deliver the council’s housing priorities.”

The Highland Housing Strategy sets out the council’s vision for housing over the next five years and what the council will do to:

  • increase the supply of homes in Highland so that there are enough houses in the right places to meet housing needs;
  • contribute to the effective integration of health and social care so that housing design and delivery of housing and housing-related services meet the changing needs of individuals;
  • prevent and respond to homelessness and make sure people have the right help to let them make decisions on their housing options; and
  • improve the condition of housing and minimise fuel poverty to improve the quality, comfort and affordability of homes.

Peer review feedback from the Scottish Government was taken into consideration on the draft strategy along with comments from a public consultation held this summer.

The council also consulted widely on the Highland Local Development Plan and the main issues for Local Housing Strategy in a series of public events during September to November 2015.

The strategy has been developed collaboratively through the Highland Housing Strategy Group which includes the council’s Planning, Development and Housing Services; registered social landlords; developers; Cairngorms National Park Authority; and NHS Highland.

1,500-home Cairngorms development given three-year planning extension

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Planning permission in principle for a new 1,500-home development in the Cairngorms National Park has been extended for a further three years following a Section 42 application to vary a condition of the previously granted consent.

Permission was originally granted by the Cairngorms National Park Authority for a new community of 1500 residential units, business and community facilities as well as the necessary infrastructure at An Camas Mòr in March 2014.

An Camas Mòr LLP submitted an application earlier this year to vary the wording of condition 1 – which restricts development to 630 new homes until a review of the impact the development is having on the landscape and ecology is completed.

The application before the CNPA’s planning committee sought to vary that condition and create a more clearly phased development with extended timescales for the submission of future detailed information.

Park Authority planning officers recommended the application for approval stating that there have been no significant changes to policy or circumstances since the Planning Permission in Principle was granted in 2014.

Gavin Miles, head of planning and communities, said: “Having appraised the application, the proposed development is acceptable and complies with Local Development Plan policies. We are however recommending a suite of conditions and other measures that will manage the development. There is a requirement for the applicant to demonstrate that there is not a significant impact on landscape and ecology and to prove there will be no significant adverse effects to capercaillie in Badenoch and Strathspey as a result of the proposals before any development can start.”

Planning committee members agreed the recommendation, with committee convener Eleanor Mackintosh, stating: “I am happy to support the recommendation to approve the Section 42 application but would now urge the applicants to conclude the necessary legal agreements in a timely manner so that the new Planning Permission in Principle can be issued, then come forward with the necessary applications and supporting information to move the proposals on to the next stage.

“The applicant still has to supply a very significant amount of detail to this Planning Committee before An Camas Mòr becomes a reality but I am confident that this new permission gives us, as the planning authority, more control and the developer more clarity.”

Amongst a number of changes to conditions, members agreed that a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists must be delivered before 200 homes are occupied.

New town of 1,500 homes near Aviemore recommended for approval

ACM-700x416Plans for a new community to the east of Aviemore are expected to get the final seal of approval from the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) this week.

Planning Permission in Principle (PPiP) was granted in March 2014 for a new community of 1,500 homes as well as business and community facilities and the necessary infrastructure at An Camas Mòr.

But the developers have now applied to vary a condition of the plans which they say will allow for a more phased approach to the development.

Condition one, as approved, states that no development beyond 630 homes will take place until the developer completes a review of the impact of the development, up to that stage, on landscape and ecology.

But the developer wants to change the wording of the condition to allow a Site-wide Phasing Plan to be submitted instead.

CNPA’s planning committee will consider the application on Friday and planners have recommended approval subject to “appropriate conditions”.

Gavin Miles, head of planning and communities at the CNPA, said: “Having assessed the Section 42 application, we are recommending that our Planning Committee approve it subject to appropriate conditions. There have been no significant changes to policy or circumstances since the Planning Permission in Principle was granted in 2014, though we have better information on the potential impacts of people living in the new development on European Protected Sites and capercaillie.

“We consider the changes proposed by the applicant to be acceptable but are recommending a suite of conditions and other measures that will manage the development and require the applicant to prove there will not be any adverse effects to capercaillie in Badenoch and Strathspey as a result of the proposals before any development can start.”

Cairngorms tourist accommodation given retrospective planning approval

Cairngorms National Park AuthorityThe Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has retrospectively approved planning applications for an access track at Cairngorm Mountain and tourist accommodation projects at Inshriach near Kingussie.

The developments were approved by CNPA at a meeting in Boat of Garten last week, despite the Authority being critical of the retrospective nature of the applications.

Natural Retreats, operator of the Cairngorm Mountain ski resort, sought permission to retain a 270m track, which was created during the installation of the new Shieling tow but which they now wish to retain to minimise disturbance to other areas of ground in the vicinity and because it provides a safe route away from high voltage cables.

The diversification of a Highland Estate to provide holiday accommodation and improved facilities for guests and workers led to Walter Micklethwait to seek permission to retain a variety of accommodation structures and a converted chicken shed housing a small scale gin distillery.

An element of his application also contained planning proposals to reconstruct a reclaimed railway station building to contain toilets and additional distillery space – a project which is not yet underway.

Speaking at the meeting, Eleanor Mackintosh, convener of the CNPA Planning Committee said: “Both applications comply with our planning policies but it is frustrating that the applicants did not gain the correct planning consents before undertaking their developments. That said – I am happy to support the enterprising developments at Inshriach – I think it provides the area with a unique tourist accommodation offering for visitors.

“I am also pleased that the proposals we are giving planning permission for at Cairngorm Mountain include a long term restoration plan for a wider area of ground, including the creation of new montane woodland habitat. This careful approach to balancing the operation of the ski resort with sensitive long term management of the ski area’s natural habitats is one we look forward to seeing as an integral part of all future plans to enhance the offering on the mountain.”

Planning permission for Cairngorms visitor attraction

Grantown East railway stationA new visitor attraction in Grantown-on-Spey has been given the go ahead by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).

The development will see the former Grantown East railway station brought back to life, as well as the creation of a Highland Games demonstration area.

The application by Revack Lodge Estate LLC involves turning the old railway station buildings into a shop and a multi-purpose display area to promote local crafts and history, with former railway carriages being converted into a café. The new Highland Games demonstration area, where visitors will learn about caber tossing and hammer throwing, will also feature a covered viewing area.

Planning officer Katherine Donnachie said: “While some concerns have been raised by neighbours, and I am sympathetic to those, this development is fully supported by our policies including supporting economic growth – especially in relation to expanding the tourism offering in the National Park. It is also bringing back to life existing building stock and supports the promotion of the cultural heritage of the area.”

Convener of the CNPA planning committee, Eleanor Mackintosh, added: “I think this development is set to offer visitors a unique and interesting experience and it will bring a welcome boost, not just to Grantown but the surrounding area. Our own Sustainable Tourism Strategy identifies the need for more cultural heritage attractions and experiences and the need to make more of the fantastic produce, arts and crafts of the Cairngorms National Park, so I fully support the application.”

New images spark public consultation on CairnGorm Mountain visitor centre

CairnGorm Mountain 3Plans for a proposed multi-million pound project to enhance facilities on CairnGorm Mountain and transform it into a year-round destination will go on public display for the first time this week.

Natural Retreats, which currently operates CairnGorm Mountain, is holding consultation events on Wednesday 28th October, Wednesday 4th November and Thursday 5th November (all 11:30 am – 7pm) in the Aonach Room of the CairnGorm Mountain Base Station. These events will allow local people and interested parties to view the proposals, hear from members of the project team and architects Keppie Design and have their say on the plans.

Natural Retreats aims to create a world class mountain destination with all-year-round appeal by sympathetically enhancing the visitor facilities and broadening the activities that the mountain destination offers. The project, which has an estimated cost in the region of £10 million-£15m, will include a replacement day lodge building with food and beverage outlets, shops, ski and bike hire, a crèche, adventure zone, gym, offices and conference and event space. There would also be staff bunkhouse accommodation which would allow the facilities to open earlier and close later and a mountain rescue and medical centre.

Also proposed as part of the plans are an artificial ski slope, mountain biking, increased snow making facilities, improvements to the ski uplift, ski slopes and runs, improved signage and way-finding, and improvements to car parking and landscaping.

Wherever possible, Natural Retreats plans to use local firms to carry out the work, and source Scottish materials for the construction of the new building.

Natural Retreats has already submitted a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) for the plans and met with Highland Council and the Cairngorm National Park to discuss the proposals ahead of submitting a formal planning application for the project.

Adam Gough, head of technical services at Natural Retreats, said: “CairnGorm Mountain is one of the most beautiful and most visited places in Scotland. We want to create a world class facility that matches the stunning setting and increases the long term economic benefit to the local communities in the Badenoch and Strathspey area. Current activities on the mountain are heavily weather-dependent and the buildings are no longer fit for purpose. This project will address both of these problems and transform CairnGorm into a four-season mountain destination. We expect that this additional activity at the mountain will result in the creation of an additional 40-50 jobs.

“As part of the planning process, we have already carried out a number of pre-consultation meetings with Highland Council and Cairngorm National Park and we have been greatly encouraged by the positive response so far.

“We are now keen to hear the views and feedback on our plans from as many tourists, local people and businesses as possible at these consultation events. The responses that we receive will then be taken into account as we move forward. We will keep participants up to date with the progress we make with our detailed plans prior to our planning applications being submitted early next year. I truly believe our plans will elevate CairnGorm Mountain to one of Europe’s top leisure and adventure destinations, which would be a fantastic boost to the area’s economy.”

Latest Scottish Scenic Routes architecture design competition winners revealed

Tomintoul A Language of Stone

A Language of Stone

The winning entries for the third group of design competitions to be built as part of the widely acclaimed Scottish Scenic Routes initiative have been revealed.

Judges selected two designs from a shortlist of four for sites within the Cairngorms National Park at the Devil’s Elbow and Tomintoul adjacent to the AA93 and the A939 respectively.

The winners each receive a prize of £5000 and a mentoring package from a Cairngorms National Park Authority design team and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

Daniel Smith and Philip Zoechbauer were announced as winners for Devil’s Elbow for their ‘A Languaue of Stone’ entry while ‘Connecting Contours’ saw Angus Ritchie and Daniel Tyler (Processcraft) emerge victorious at the Tomintoul site.

Both projects will be built by Spring 2016.

Cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment, Richard Lochhead, said: “Scenic Routes brings together Scotland’s world renowned landscape with emerging design talent.

“Previous phases of this initiative have delivered projects with real impact and I have no doubt that this phase will produce the exceptional quality that Scotland’s landscape deserves.

“Good luck to all the young designers who will have entered their designs. I look forward to visiting the completed projects in Spring 2016, which will be an excellent showcase for Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.”

Brian Wood, deputy convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) board, said: “I am really pleased that the competition has produced two very creative designs for sites in Glenshee and near Tomintoul. Once constructed these, together with the installation at Corgaff scheduled to be in place in November, will give us an outstanding scenic route along the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park, from Glenshee to Grantown-on-Spey. This will encourage more people to experience and enjoy the breath-taking landscapes of the Cairngorms.”

A third competition site at Banavie went without a winner after judges deemed that the three shortlisted submissions were ‘insufficiently robust’ to meet the design challenges presented by Scotland’s longest flight of canal lock gates.

Legal action against Cairngorms village dropped

cairngormsA legal challenge to the Cairngorms National Park’s Local Plan has been abandoned, paving the way for up to 1,500 homes to be built.

The appeal by a group of environmental bodies failed in the courts system twice before the appellants appealed to the UK Supreme Court in 2013, where a hearing date had yet to be set.

Landowners Rothiemurchus Estate are behind the plans for a village of eco-friendly houses at An Camas Mòr, on a banks of the River Spey. It would be the first new settlement to be built in a UK national park.

Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) first approved the proposal, which would see the first new community built in a UK national park, in June 2010.

The group behind the action – the Cairngorms Campaign, the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and the Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group – have decided not to proceed any further with their appeal and have paid £38,000 towards costs for CNPA.

Gus Jones, convener of the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group, said: “The reason for our challenge terminating at this stage is because the Supreme Court refused to limit our liability to the CNPA’s legal costs.

“No charity could proceed on the basis of unknown costs.

“The incredible level of public support we have received demonstrates the deep and far-reaching public concern that exists about the Park Authority’s unsustainable and developer-driven approach to planning taken in their Local Plan, which threatens the natural heritage that the Park was set up to protect.”

CNPA chief executive Grant Moir welcomed the news: “The CNPA has been able to recoup £38,000 from the appellants for this lengthy legal challenge to the Local Plan. The appellants were granted protection on liabilities for expenses from the Courts and so a considerable expense to the taxpayer could not be recouped.

“The first Local Plan for the Cairngorms National Park had been through a thorough consultation process as well as a Public Local Inquiry before being adopted in October 2010. Two court judgements already resulted in the appellant’s arguments being rejected so we were understandably extremely disappointed by them appealing to the UK Supreme Court.

“I am obviously delighted that this is now the end of the matter but disappointed that it was not brought to an end sooner. The significant legal fees are not the only issue; we’ve invested a considerable amount of staff time and energy defending the appeal over the last few years. It’s frustrating to think that this is time and money that would have been better targeted towards conservation projects in the Cairngorms National Park.”

The Cairngorms National Park Local Plan which was the subject of the legal challenge has now been replaced by the new Local Development Plan which was adopted earlier this year.

Distillery expansion and bus depot among host of Cairngorms National Park Authority planning approvals

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Planning permission for the expansion of a whisky distillery has been granted by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) among a raft of development approvals.

Chivas Brothers, which owns the Glenlivet Distillery in Moray, had applied to the CNPA for permission to build a new processing facility and various other alterations and improvements at the Glenlivet site. The developments are set to triple production and will create 13 additional permanent jobs.

The planning application included a new processing building to house distilling operations, a new tank and equipment area, groundworks and landscaping, a replacement bioplant, new pipework, new site access, alterations to the existing feed plant and new surface water arrangements.

Planning committee member Duncan Bryden said: “The economic importance of this proposal is of national significance as well as locally.

“Whisky is a major economic driver for Scotland with brands known the world over and it supports many jobs – often in rural areas like this.”

Planning officer Katherine Donnachie, who outlined the proposals to members, said the “major application” had been subject to consultation with the community, and concerns raised in relation to the roads around about the distillery and the impact on the River Livet.

She added: “Planning conditions have been attached to the consent with regards to details of discharge and abstractions at the River Livet and to ensure that measures are taken to protect European protected species.”

Meanwhile Ballater is to get a new bus depot after CNPA members gave planning permission for the development.

The new depot will be located on Ballater’s Pannanich Road and will mean that the applicant, Bluebird Buses, can maintain its regular bus services in the area and retain jobs locally.

The move follows the granting of planning permission to turn the existing bus depot on Golf Road into a supermarket.

The Authority also approved the three latest planning applications for sections of the Speyside Way extension. This clears the way to construct the route from Aviemore to Kincraig.

The Speyside Way Long Distance Route currently runs 65 miles from Buckie on the Moray Firth to Aviemore. Scottish Ministers have approved the extension from Aviemore to Newtonmore and these planning consents mark the next stage in a decade long process.

David Clyne, access and recreation manager with CNPA, said: “These consents, along with partner funding from Sustrans and Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund, will allow us to start work on the path in the New Year. If all goes well we could have a route through to Kincraig by Easter. While this section is being built we will turn our attention to planning the next phase from Kincraig to Kingussie, and sourcing the all important funding.”

Finally, planning permission was also granted for a new care home in Grantown-on-Spey.

Parklands Developments Ltd are behind the 40-bedroom, single storey development on the town’s Seafield Avenue, which will also house a café, hairdressing salon, family room and secure garden. The home will provide assisted living, short term respite, post-operative and convalescence care, as well as day care.

Planning officer Fiona Murphy said: “A new care home in Grantown would certainly provide economic benefits in terms of jobs and provide a valuable service locally. The proposed design is a good one reflecting the traditional pattern and character of the area and with conditions attached to the consent, issues around flooding, parking and traffic management can be addressed.

“Although not allocated for development in the current Local Plan or proposed Local Development Plan the site is suitable and assessed on its merits, I recommend it for approval.”

Planning committee convener, Eleanor Mackintosh added: “I think this is a good application and I am happy to support it. You can tell that the applicant has made a real effort in terms of designing a building that will fit well in the site and they have gone to a great deal of effort to work with the relevant bodies and our planning officers to overcome some of the concerns that have been raised during the processing of this application.

“I think a new care home in Grantown, providing more jobs, will be really good for the local economy – especially in light of moves to close the Ian Charles Hospital.”