Controversial plans for a new building in one of Scotland’s most picturesque towns have been backed by the Scottish Government.
Argyll and Bute councillors went against planners’ advice and approved the development in Tobermory, despite concerns over a possible flood risk.
Local company Argyll Properties is to create a shop and visitor centre, with self-catering accommodation upstairs, on land adjacent to the harbour association’s Taigh Solais premises.
The harbour association building is home to Mull Aquarium, the public toilet and laundry and shower facilities. The new visitor centre is to be used by the harbour board to expand its attractions. The plan was backed by 50 individuals who wrote letters of support.
Planning chiefs recommended refusal after the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency objected on the basis the building may be a flood risk.
But after a public hearing, members of the planning committee agreed with locals that the building would not be a serious flood risk and would benefit the local community.
Because the decision went against policy, it was called in by Scottish Ministers in May last year.
Now the planning committee has been informed of the Scottish Government’s position to back the decision to approve planning permission.
Mary Jean Devon, a Tobermory-based councillor and member of the planning committee, said: “This is a fantastic result for Tobermory, for future development in Tobermory.
“The building is to be on a gap site between Macgochans pub and the harbour building.
“Tobermory is one of the top 10 destinations for tourists in Scotland and we don’t have a visitor centre, nowhere people can get information about what they can do, where they can eat.
“Had the objection been upheld it would have stifled future development. The harbour association has wonderful plans. People on Mull always look to the future, even in these desperate times. It was a great result.”
A letter to the developer from the Scottish Government’s planning division states: “Scottish Ministers have carefully considered the report. They agree with the
Reporter’s overall conclusions and recommendation that planning permission should
be granted subject to conditions, and adopt his reasoning for the purpose of their
“Ministers agree with the Reporter that the proposed development would
accord with a number of policies in the development plan and would further the
delivery of the policy ambitions relating to tourism development areas and the
Tobermory town centre and bay area for action.
“Due to the site’s location at medium to high risk of coastal flooding, the proposed development would be contrary to a number of policies in the development plan. Public safety is very unlikely to be compromised by the development, however.
“Having regard to the significant benefits of the proposal, the development is considered to represent a locally important and unique opportunity for the town centre’s enhancement, its attractiveness to visitors and economic prosperity.
“In these specific circumstances, it is considered that a departure from the development plan’s provisions, and national policy, in regard to flood avoidance, is justified.
“Ministers also agree with the Reporter that the proposed development would enhance the character and appearance of Tobermory Conservation Area.”