Multi-million pound plans to transform a derelict site in the heart of Aviemore into a large tourism venture have been called in by the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
Upland Developments Ltd propose to build a 83-bedroom budget hotel and 23 self-catering apartments with shops and underground parking at the former Laurel Bank site on Grampian Road.
The developers were seeking full planning approval from the Highland Council, but the plans have been called in by the park authority as they are considered to raise issues “of significance to the collective aims of the national park”.
It will now be the deciding body for the application and representations are required by April 26.
Aviemore and Vicinity Community Council will consider the proposals next Thursday and already a lively debate has started on social media.
Chairman Peter Long said: “There seems to be a range of views and I am looking forward to hearing all those points of view at the meeting next week.
“The community council has to defer its position until then but its really important that local people get a chance to put their views forward on this.”
In a post on its website, the community council urges the public to express opinions on the project.
“This is an important planning application, which will have a big impact on the village centre for years to come.
“The community council can comment on behalf of local residents. Tell us what you think.”
Upland says new developments should not only meet the needs of the local and wider community but that of the large number of visitors to the area.
In supporting documents submitted to the council, it states the development will support economic growth which has been hit by the pandemic, and that the easing of restrictions will see significant greater demand for local tourism and leisure related infrastructure including holiday accommodation.
But some local people have raised concerns about the scale of the buildings and that the complex could cause more congestion in the town centre. They have also questioned whether more holiday accommodation is needed in Aviemore and that affordable housing is needed.
One objector, Aaron Sneddon, said the proposal would be a “monstrosity” as the buildings are “too tall and overbearing”, having no sympathy for the surroundings.
“I feel there is too much holiday accommodation in Aviemore already and it doesn’t benefit the people who live there. What we need is more quality accommodation.
“It will also cause traffic issues on the main road.”
Local councillor Muriel Cockburn said: “I think any economic development is good for Aviemore and anything that improves footfall and local spend is also good.
“Aviemore is the honeypot of the ward. It’s a go-to location and has a lot to offer and we must ensure that it is supported to be attractive to all and benefits tourists and locals alike.”
However, she said while self-catering accommodation is part of the local economy, affordable renting accommodation is needed for local people and those coming to work in the area.
What can villagers expect?
The proposed complex centres around a main courtyard featuring a car park and gathering place for local residents and tourists.
The three-storey budget hotel will feature a main reception area with bar and dining area on the ground floor along with 21 rooms located in the west wing of the building.
The remaining 62 on-suite rooms will be located on the second and third floors. An underground car park would also be constructed, comprising of 52-spaces and three disabled spaces with associated lifts and stairwells.
On the periphery of the courtyard, a large accommodation block is proposed featuring six residential units on the ground floor.
The remaining floors will comprise of a combination of two and three bedroom apartments.
The two acre brownfield site was previously a series of individual residential buildings which were cleared.