Fears have been raised that plans to breathe new life into a prominent vacant building in the heart of Inverness could be abandoned.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, believes the proposal to turn the old Arnott’s store at 7-17 Union Street into a combination of retail premises and affordable housing is central to the redevelopment of the city centre – and “core to the wellbeing of the whole area”.
He has now written to Highland Council’s chief executive, Donna Manson, to ask for her direct and urgent intervention after councillors decided to defer any decision on the application.
Mr Nicol said he fears funding for the project, in the region of £15m, will be withdrawn and the much-needed development may never go ahead.
He said: “There is extreme support for this key building, which has been empty for a decade and a half, and the opportunity may be missed.”
Councillor Jimmy Gray, chairman of the south planning applications committee, made the decision with officials under the emergency procedure for meetings put in place by the council.
Mr Gray said: “I deferred it in response to a request from within the committee to look at the proposal in more detail.”
Mr Gray said efforts were under way to take planning committee meetings online once IT problems were overcome.
He said: “I understand the frustration and concerns about the economy, and have lots of understanding and sympathy, but it’s about getting the balance between that and what we can do virtually.”