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First look at new plans for £30m luxury hotel in Inverness city centre that could replace the Ironworks

Bricks Group has presented its 'new vision' for a Courtyard by Marriott on the site of Academy Street's Ironworks music venue.

The developer behind a £30 million luxury hotel for Inverness city centre has presented its “new vision” for the site.

Bricks Group has lodged a new planning application for consideration on Academy Street after months of liaison with planners and stakeholders.

It will be constructed on the site currently occupied by the Ironworks music venue.

Group hopeful plans will meet approval of councillors

The group says it is optimistic that amended plans will gain the approval of Highland Council’s south planning committee.

The committee is due to meet next month – 12 months after previous plans were thrown out.

In December, councillors turned down the previous proposal due to its “monolithic” looks.

Councillors argued whilst more beds were required in the city centre, the three main blocks would tower over the city’s landscape.

They brandished this intrusion as “unacceptable”.

Bricks said it has consulted and is now confident the amended plans will be approved.

Bricks Group have lodged plans to Highland Council’s south planning committee to construct a 155-bed hotel on the site of the Ironworks music venue on Academy Street

‘We have listened’

Allan Davidson, chief operating officer of Bricks Group, said lessons have been learnt from the previous proposals rejection.

He said: “We have listened and learned and feel there have been significant benefits from this time using a local architect with conservation area expertise.

“This design significantly reduces the height and massing on Academy Street.

“It respects the separate identity of the conservation area on that street and the commercial area on Rose Street.

“We now offer a more attractive frontage with more of a civic presence.”

Allan Davidson of Bricks Hotels with the previous design which was rejected

Less bedrooms under new plans, but 100,000 anticipated to visit

Under the new plans, the number of bedrooms will decrease from the previously quoted 162 to 155.

The amended application has been submitted by Inverness based CRGP Architects.

Up to 100,000 visitors each year are anticipated to visit the hotel, bearing The Courtyard by Marriott branding.

If planning is granted, 90 jobs are expected to be created during the anticipated two-year construction phase.

A further 65 full-time jobs are anticipated once construction is complete.

How the development will look from Rose Street

Investment into local economy urgently needed to aid post-pandemic recovery

Mr Davidson continued: “The area’s economy urgently needs inward investment to help its post-pandemic recovery – and we’re prepared to inject an amount which would surpass chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £20 million budget offer to Inverness for new visitor and sport facilities.

“The city has been pushed to cope with visitor numbers this year and commercial studies have shown new hotels are necessary if Inverness is to continue to grow as a tourism destination.”

The “new vision” is deliberately stepped back to the rear of the site.

An elegant feature tower is also proposed which will be accessible from Rose Street leading to the main accommodation block.

The hotel will have also space for a 24-hour gym franchise.

Design work has been carried out to mitigate the development’s impact on Academy Street

Design stripped back

Bryan McFadzean, director of CRGP Architects, said: “We have been on an intensive journey these past few months, liaising closely with planners and  conservation experts, tweaking our vision in response to issues raised.

“We took the design right back to the beginning and worked from there and have developed a design which has attracted complimentary feedback.

“There will be spectacular views of the river from the tower corridors on the contemporary frontage and we think our design creates a modern, contemporary yet neutral canvas backdrop for all the nearby listed buildings to sit against.

“The building is now layered back from Academy Street.

“The design has been deliberately separated into two elements.

“This directly addresses the conservation edge of the site and separately the massing to Rose Street connecting to the existing retail and commercial edge there.”

Inverness identified as ‘hotel hotspot’

CRGP’s work is already visible on Academy Street, where the firm helped restore the fire-damaged Grade A-listed frontage of M&Co.

The firm is also currently working on the construction of flats and a retail project with Highland Housing Alliance at the Grade B listed premises at 53 Castle Street.

Bricks said the proposal comes after Colliers International identified Inverness as the nation’s top hotspot for new hotel provision.

Highland Council’s south planning committee will meet on December 14.

The Ironworks has been contacted for comment.