Plans to build a Premier Inn in Thurso are proving controversial, with local Highland councillors being lobbied hard by opponents and supporters.
Whitbread want to construct the 81-room budget hotel on part of the former livestock mart site, between the railway station and the high school.
Members of the local tourist trade feature prominently among the 87 who have formally objected to the scheme, which would breathe new life into the ground which has lain derelict for the past 12 years.
Objectors claim the development would displace trade and lead to other hotels in the town having to close in the winter and shed jobs.
Andrew Mackay, who runs the Pentland Hotel in Thurso as well as the Castletown Hotel and Norseman in Wick, said: “An 81-bedroom budget hotel will have a devastating impact on the existing accommodation providers, not just in Thurso in the wider Caithness and north Sutherland area.
“This would be a significant addition to a town that already has The Royal and The St Clair shutting in the winter because there is not enough business.
“If this application is successful, it will cause more winter closures in both Thurso and the wider vicinity.”
Caithness Chamber of Commerce has objected on behalf of its members in the hospitality trade.
It says the venture will displace trade from existing accommodation providers and that it runs counter to the council’s guidelines for regenerating the town centre.
Among the 14 who have written to support the scheme is local woman Fiona MacLeod. She stated: “I am all for the Premier Inn coming to Thurso. Not only will it bring in more tourists but it will bring more jobs.
“With all the promotion for the North Coast 500, the need for more affordable accommodation has never been greater.
“Let’s face it, the unused ground is nothing more than an eyesore. There has been plenty of complaining by some about how everything always goes to Wick and it always will as long as any new development plans here keep getting blocked.”
Whitbread say the scheme will create 30 jobs.
The application is expected to go before members of the council’s north planning committee on September 11.