A dispute over the blue painted doors and window frames of a former sheriff court building in Sutherland has reached the Scottish Government.
American businessman Todd Warnock transformed the 165-year-old courthouse in Dornoch into an upmarket tourist attraction, the Carnegie Courthouse, which opened last summer.
The building, which had lain empty for nearly three years, now contains a tearoom, deli and whisky shop and spa, as well as a new tourist information centre and a town service point which the community raised £20,000 to keep.
And the formerly white windows and sills, brown doors and disabled ramp handrails were painted a shade of blue – called Pantone 2746C – in time for the opening.
But a retrospective application for listed building consent to repaint these external features was refused by Highland Council planners in May.
A statement produced by the planning authority states: “The choice of colour is aesthetically inappropriate for use on a listed building of this period and importance, being both visually garish and obtrusive in its modern tonality.
“The external re-painting has resulted in an adverse impact upon the setting of the adjacent listed buildings (The Jail and Castle Hotel) and a disruptive impact upon the (previously cohesive) relationship between the three buildings. “This impact also has a resultant adverse effect upon the character and appearance of the Dornoch Conservation Area.”
The local authority was unable to provide any details on the colour guidelines for the conservation area, but a spokesman reiterated that the colour is “not considered appropriate for a listed building”.
The council will provide a response to the appeal by the September 5 deadline.
Earlier this week the applicant, through Maxwell and Company Architects and Designers Ltd, lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government outlining their argument to keep the colour scheme.
The appeal letter states the new colour “identifies a new, positive use for a building in a conservation area that has been successfully redeveloped to provide economic and social benefit for the community”.
It says this “enhances the character and appearance” of the listed building to secure its future, consistent with the council’s Highland Historic Environment Strategy and policy on natural, built and cultural heritage.
The Carnegie Courthouse has also served as an economic catalyst for other retailers in the town such as a new deli store and Cocoa Mountain cafe.
The applicant’s design statement includes photographs of other buildings in the Dornoch Conservation Area sporting signage of similar blue tones.
The applicant also argues The Jail and Castle Hotel buildings have different colours on external elements, and that a key success of the conservation area is the unique character of its individual retailers and businesses – and council policy should serve this.