Controversial plans for holiday development in forest on Dame Ann Gloag’s Beaufort estate near Beauly will be determined by councillors next week.
The Stagecoach billionaire claims her plans will meet demand for visitors in the area, and generate economic benefits locally.
But neighbours say the development will put pressure on already crowded roads, with one describing the character of the area as “utterly unsuited for this Center Parcs type of development”.
Up to 50 timber cabins with one to three bedrooms are planned on the banks of the River Beauly in woodland at the Ballindoun end of the estate.
A neighbouring field would also be available for glamping.
To be known as Beaufort Highland Lodges, the communal focal point would be a courtyard with renovated steading buildings housing a café, retail, and admin, and a washhouse for campers.
The lodges would be arranged in clusters around fire pits.
Plans include a riverside footpath and shuttle bus drop-off zone.
Architects 3DReid say the layout recognises the presence of badgers and otters, and a cleared area of woodland in the centre of the site will be used as much as possible, retaining existing stands of trees and preserving wildlife corridors.
Consultants Treeline Forestry Limited of Inverness has assessed the site and recommended a compensatory planting scheme and woodland management plan for path from the A862 to the north.
But access is one of the sticking points for Highland Council’s transport planning department.
Despite planners’ recommendation to councillors to approve the development, they say they cannot accept an estimate of 50 vehicles additional cars in the area as it makes no allowance for staff or servicing trips, multiple trips by tourists to visit local attractions, go to the shops or visit pubs and restaurants further afield.
They say they have insufficient evidence about the traffic impact, and that without agreement on the potential level of traffic, they can’t support the application.
They also say they don’t support the location of the proposed new access junction, and want to see it moved further away from a bend in the road.
Residents have also pointed out that the road is likely to get busier, with new housing developments in neighbouring Kiltarlity and Kirkhill, commuter traffic and service, farming and forestry vehicles, intensified in summer by tourists, cyclists and tourist coaches, particularly from the increasing numbers of cruise liners coming into Invergordon.
Kiltarlity community council is objecting to the plans citing dangerous access and the impact on road safety.
They’re also concerned about the potential pollution problem with the river so close to the development.
Foul drainage from the site will be managed privately, but with details still to be established.
The drainage situation also concerns Beauly Fishing Syndicate, who say no foul sewage should be discharged to the river, which is a high quality environment for many species.
They have lodged objections citing reasons why the proposal doesn’t meet requirements of a dozen council development policies.
But developer agent Savills says two years of work with the early involvement of many specialists “has allowed the initial design response to thoughtfully consider not only commercial requirements but also the site sensitivities and the ideas of local people”.