Developers have made a new move towards creating a major housing and leisure development at a former oil fabrication base.
The proposal for the disused yard at Ardersier includes nearly 2,000 homes, a marina, boat yard, yacht club, visitor centre, nature conservation zone and hotel.
It also features shops and restaurants, community and education facilities, including a primary school, a community hall and health centre.
Plans were given outline planning permission in 2007 and consent was extended in 2013.
Ardersier Port Ltd acquired the site in 2016, a few months after the previous owners went into administration, and submitted a renewed application in January.
The company has now lodged an updated environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the 760-acre site which has lain empty since 2001 when an oil platform construction site closed down.
Agents for Ardersier Port said: “The latest application shows a commitment to the project. They are very keen to progress things on site.”
Kevin Reid, chairman of Ardersier and Petty Community Council said: “It would be great to see something happening on site. I like to think it will be sooner rather than later, but with the financial impact of Covid-19, it’s anyone’s guess.”
He said there were positive signs in 2008 before the financial crash and now the pandemic could affect the project again.
“That said, if the right investor comes along with the right opportunity things will be able to move quickly. It’s a shame to see such a large site go to waste.”
The latest report says the site would be developed over 20-25 years, creating an estimated 3,300 full-time equivalent construction jobs, with 176 full-time equivalents once it is operational.
The EIS report states: “The development will create a major positive effect for the local area at both the construction and operational stage in terms of increasing population, creation of jobs and provision of local services and amenities.”
It sets out proposed mitigation measures including further ecological and ornithological surveys in advance of construction work starting and adoption of general environmental good practice measures.
An ecological impact assessment concludes that mitigation measures designed following review of engineering and construction techniques, means the majority of adverse effects on birds and land plants will not be significant.
However, it states that, even with effective mitigation, there could be significant effects from recreational disturbance (including from pets) on birds, plants and habitats, albeit at a local level, as well as on grey and common seals when they leave the water.