Residents of a Ross-shire village say they have lost the first battle but not the war in the fight to save their valued green space from development.
Highland councillors yesterday voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with council plans to build 16 homes on land at the former Maryburgh primary school in Hood Street.
They argued that the overwhelming need for housing in the village justifies building on almost 12,000 square feet of the green space at the heart of the village.
The council says that for the development to be viable, no less than 16 homes need to be built on the site, involving encroaching into the green space.
But Maryburgh residents said if they wanted houses there they would not have argued against the development.
They say the loss of space will stop them from progressing their ambitions for the area, including building a multi-use games area, a bandstand, all abilities footpath and arboretum.
Local councillor Margaret Paterson spoke against the development.
She said: “Even though it brings much needed houses I can’t support the proposal as it stands.
“The community was promised they would not lose their green space, and they are still grieving the loss of their beloved school.
“Do we have the right to cause them distress once again?”
But Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner said he was surprised at the debate.
He said: “This seems to be a good thing.
“If this is refused, how long will it be before we can mitigate the housing need with another development?
“Refusing this would be inhibiting the ability of people to find houses.”
Jenny Maclennan, director of Maryburgh Amenities Company and a community council member, said council officers were misleading when they told councillors only 6% of the green space would be lost.
She said: “They included the adjacent football pitch in the figure, but if you take that out, we’re losing 28% of the green space.”
Mrs Maclennan said the first battle may have been lost, but not the war.
“We feel there is still an opportunity to reconfigure the layout and positioning to move it nearer to the old school, minimising the encroachment onto the green space and reducing the area around the old school to a reasonable level.
“We want the council to bring forward the asset transfer of the land under the amenity hall and the carpark, the football pitch and remaining green space.
“What happens to the old school building is a matter for the community to see what it wants to do with it.”