New ‘FitHomes’ set for Nairn as councillors hear of City Deal progress

Planning permission has been granted for ten specially-designed assisted homes in Nairn to provide accommodation for tenants with various medical needs.

A similar ‘FitHome’ development in Dalmore, Alness

The ‘FitHomes’ development allows residents to be supported while maintaining their independence.

To be built on land just north of the Hermitage, St Olaf Manor, Cawdor Road, the homes were approved after a Scottish Government Reporter overturned a planning application by Highland Council.

The announcement was made to members of the council’s economy and infrastructure committee as they were advised of progress of project being delivered as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.

Currently in year four, the Deal is a joint initiative supported by up to £315 million investment from the UK and Scottish governments, the council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and University of the Highlands and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth over a 10-year period. 

Members were advised that good progress continues to be made despite some delays on specific projects, largely as a result of COVID.

Planning permission has also been granted for the Life Science Centre and invitations to tender have been issued.

Works to transform Inverness Castle into a flagship tourism attraction are continuing at pace and participation in the Spirit of the Highlands initiative has been very positive with over 100 entries received so far.

The Dingwall Newton Room has hosted its first pupils from Dingwall Academy and planning has started on the Inverness Newton Room at the UHI campus.

Construction work on the final phase of the West link project continues following the installation of the new canal crossing bridge and associated road works. The original planned completed date was December 2020, but due to the pandemic and the 3 months cessation of construction projects this has been delayed to March 2021.

Members were advised that the impact of Covid-19 is being felt with some delays and issues arising from previous restrictions but a variety of mitigation measures were able to be put in. Although the current temporary level 4 has not materially affected the construction industry, there are some issues around access to sites, obtaining materials and increased safety measures which may affect timescales but every effort will be made to get projects back on schedule. 

The core overarching aims of the Deal remain to:

  • help to rebalance the population through the aim of attracting and/or retaining an additional 1,500 young people in the 18-29 age group;
  • create 1,125 direct jobs with a further 2,200 jobs in construction;
  • help to upskill the labour market to move to a high wage high skill economy adding an extra £100m pa to the regional economy;
  • deliver 6,000 homes over a 20-year period, of which 1,600 will be affordable; and
  • deliver private sector investment of £800m over a 20-year period in the region.

After going through the progress report, members of the committee agreed the Annual Report for 2019/20 which will now be published.

Chair of the economy and infrastructure committee, Cllr Trish Robertson, said: “We are now completing year four of the ten-year City Region Deal and excellent progress is being made across a diverse range of projects as we aim to capitalise on the substantial opportunities and investments.

“As the Covid pandemic continues it is having an impact on the City Region Deal projects, but all partners are working hard to adapt to current constraints and finding new creative ways to deliver. I am sure that great progress will continue to be made throughout these challenging times and we look forward to receiving more updates as projects move forward.”

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