Social housing plans for Fort William recommended for approval

Some of the group protesting against the volume of housing planned for Upper Achintore at Cow Hill in Fort William.
Some of the group protesting against the volume of housing planned for Upper Achintore at Cow Hill in Fort William.

Plans to build social housing on peat land above Fort William town centre are all set to be given the go-ahead by Highland Council.

However, residents from the area say they have “fundamental concerns” at the sheer volume of properties on a 60-acre site at Cow Hill in Upper Achintore.

The planning application in principle for 325 houses, with a full application for permission for works to begin on the first 176 houses by Link Housing is set for approval by the South Planning Committee next week.

Council papers show objections raised by local residents have already been taken into account by planners, who recommend councillors grant permission for the scheme. This is in spite of an active campaign and petition from residents raising concerns about the site, the environmental impact of removing peat for the development, and the scale of the project.

Campaign group, Lundavra Community Area Group said the houses would, if approved, be the largest single residential development in Fort William in more than 40 years.

The group’s chairman Mark Linfield said while they were supportive of much needed additional housing for the town, it should not be  a case of “housing at any price”.

Mr Linfield said: “We have written to council planners expressing our alarm that this site, which is earmarked in the council’s own local plan for only 220 houses, including 42 already developed, is now expected to accommodate a further 325 houses.

“We think this is excessive, it is far too dense for the rural periphery of a West Highland town, and the layout is poor and not conducive to creating nice places for people to live.”

Mr Linfield continued: “We have major concerns that once the deep moorland peat is removed to accommodate the new development, the existing houses will be in danger of flooding.”

He continued: “I don’t believe many of us are against a smaller development, it is the sheer size of this one in proportion to what is already built up here – roughly 650 households at the moment – so a 50% increase if all the houses get the go ahead.

“I think our group will certainly be pushing for more clarity and consultation for any future large planning applications. We have also discussed pushing for some sort of legislation for builds, to be as carbon neutral as possible in the future.”