Plans are underway for the next phase of housing to built at the Highland town of Tornagrain.
Landowner Moray Estates, headed up by the 21st Earl of Moray John Moray, is inviting bids from housebuilders for two parcels of land at Inverness-based Tornagrain for another 225 houses.
Planning permission was obtained nine years ago for the new town, made up of nearly 5,000 homes alongside schools, shops, social and community facilities.
The community already has 300 homes, nursery, grocery shop, cafe, pharmacy, public hall, outdoor nursery, tennis courts and allotments.
Lack of housing in Highlands
The latest phase of Tornagrain has been welcomed by FSB Highlands and Islands development manager David Richardson who believes Inverness is in “desperate need of more housing”.
He said: “There are too many stories about people being appointed to jobs and then not finding houses and leaving the region rather than staying on.
“Yes we need houses. Inverness desperately needs more housing.
“The key thing is it’s not houses in isolation. They must all have a central infrastructure like schools, shops and things communities need to function properly.
“Where you have got the full kit, and it’s not just houses it’s a really good thing and we need more of it.”
Tornagrain is expected to take 50 years to complete and will provide a town similar in size to Nairn or Forres.
The first houses were completed four years ago and earlier this year it saw the completion of its 250th home.
‘Unique opportunity’ for developers
Shepherd Chartered Surveyor Inverness office partner Neil Calder said: “This is a unique opportunity for developers to become involved in what is a landmark development opportunity.
“To date, the estate has worked with two housebuilders, Places for People and A&J Stephen.
“The time is now right to broaden the opportunity to other like-minded housebuilders, and so additional serviced land is being marketed.
“The estate is releasing two separate sites with a capacity for around 75 and 150 units respectively.
“Bidders are invited to prepare and submit a commercial offer to Tornagrain for either block of land.
“The invitation is to bid separately for either block, or collectively for both.”
Tornagrain lies to the south of the A96, Inverness Airport and the business park, with Inverness seven miles west and Nairn nine miles east.
The site extends to 259 hectares of agricultural land and woodland.
Moray Estate managing director Andrew Howard said: “Tornagrain has been designed to be an enduring and sustainable town, which builds on the architectural and planning traditions of Scotland and the Highlands.
“We wish Tornagrain to be a model town for the twenty-first century, fostering a vibrant and successful community.
“This development is setting a new standard and vastly improved quality of development.”
A new rail station is currently being built on land north of the A96, on the Inverness to Aberdeen line.
The station is due to open at the end of this year and will be connected to Tornagrain by an active travel link and a bus route.
Plea for more housing
A call has been made for a new Highlands and Islands housing authority to help tackle a crisis facing people across the region who are priced out of the market.
Access to affordable housing is one of the biggest issues affecting the area and attempts to retain and increase the population.
Earlier this year a study by The Mull and Iona Community Trust said housing is needed for at least 260 staff across the islands which is hampering the economy.
Research by SkyeConnect showed between 1,300-1,700 job vacancies in Skye are going unfilled because workers can’t find accommodation.
And a Lochaber Chamber of Commerce survey found 66% of businesses have experienced problems in recruiting or retaining staff.
The Lochaber housing crisis is so bad that key workers are forced to sleep in vans and hotel owners are giving up guest rooms to staff.
Last year Highland councillors also supported plans to limit the number of short-term lets in communities.