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Controversial hotel on Inverness Ironworks site up for planning decision

Allan Davidson, chief operating officer of Bricks Group, with the original plans of the new hotel project
Allan Davidson, chief operating officer of Bricks Group, with the original plans of the new hotel project

Plans for a £30 million hotel in Inverness on the site of the Ironworks music venue are forging ahead, with a revised application going before Highland councillors next month.

Developers of the proposed 162-bedroom Courtyard by Marriott Hotel on Academy Street are urging planners to back the scheme, saying it would provide a boost to a post-Covid economic recovery.

Allan Davidson, of developers Bricksgroup, said the hotel project, if approved, would be a “key stimulus” to the retail and hospitality sector in Inverness.

It would provide 65 jobs once built, with 100 jobs during construction.

Hotel could help aid recovery of Inverness economy

After discussions with council planning officials, the developers changed the design to allow clear views of the city’s famous church spires prior to the project going before planners next month.

If approved, the project will be delivered by the BricksGroup on the Ironworks site in Academy Street, and will be the largest private sector investment in Inverness city centre over the next couple of years.

The Ironworks on Academy Street in Inverness. Picture by Sandy McCook.

Mr Davidson said: “The opportunity to create 100 construction jobs and then 65 permanent full-time jobs will surely be regarded as an important asset to Inverness’s hoped-for rapid recovery from the pandemic which has been so damaging to the economy and is already costing local jobs.

“We’re already receiving calls from prospective new staff who have lost, or are due to lose, their jobs in Inverness.

“It’s also significant to point out that our Courtyard by Marriott model is based on offering limited food and beverages because the city centre location encourages guests to eat out.

“Few people will be having dinner in the hotel, with such a range of options close by. With an anticipated 100,000 guests a year, this represents a major ongoing advantage to city centre shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.”

What is different in the revised hotel plans?

Mr Davidson said the company had recently made a series of changes to the building design, at significant expense, following discussions with planners.

The roof height has been lowered, a ’shadow gap’ will reduce the massing effect and external stone cladding has been upgraded.

The stepping back of the building offers a clear view of the city’s spires from the Longman Road railway bridge.

The hotel would be the same height as the existing Penta Hotel a matter of yards away in Academy Street.

Demand will go elsewhere if the volume of beds is not there. We have to build now to be ready for the future.”

Allan Davidson

Mr Davidson added: “Inverness needs new investment and development such as ours at this challenging time.

“It also requires more hotels and more bedrooms to be able to expand its post-pandemic tourism sector.

“Demand will go elsewhere if the volume of beds is not there. We have to build now to be ready for the future.

“We’re the fastest growing new accommodation provider in the UK in the past five years and our new hotel by the finishing straight at Silverstone motor racing circuit should be open in time for next year’s British Grand Prix.

“We have the funds to go ahead and invest in Inverness by completing this project – and we hope the councillors on the Planning Committee will give us this opportunity.”

The application is coming before Highland Council’s south planning committee on December 8.

The Ironworks music venue continues to operate at the location, and reopened at the weekend with a performance by folk rock band Torridon following an eight-month shutdown due to Covid-19.

Punters and the band enjoy the first live gig in eight months as Torridon take to the stage in Inverness’s Ironworks for Scotland’s first, live indoor gig since lockdown.

A decision on its future will be made following the council planning decision.

The Courtyard by Marriott chain has one other hotel in Inverness, having opened at Inverness Airport at the beginning of March before the onset of the pandemic forced closure.

The 130-room luxury hotel, the first in the Inverness area to operate under the Courtyard by Marriott brand, closed for a period and then reopened under strict restrictions.

Ironworks future undecided until hotel decision is made

Bosses at the Ironworks will make a decision on its future once a verdict is delivered on whether planners approve or reject the hotel application.

Caroline Campbell, director of the venue, said the company had long been aware of the hotel plans, but insisted it was “business as usual” for now.

The Ironworks has a series of gigs booked up until November next year.

It is understood that several venue options have been explored should the hotel proposal be approved.

Mrs Campbell said: “There are always options for the Ironworks. It has a place and will always have a place in Inverness – if not Academy Street then somewhere else.

“After a planning decision has been made we will update everyone on the situation.”

Crowds at Torridon performance

After the Torridon performance, she said: “It was great to see life back in the venue after a long eight months and it felt that a degree of normality returned.”

A number of measures to keep staff, artists and customers safe including creating zones, a one way system are in place and all drink and band merchandise orders are done via an app and delivered to your zone.

With the Highlands in Tier One, it allows the Ironworks to have small, indoor, seated events up to 100 capacity, with two metre distancing.

Upcoming events at the Ironworks include Davy and Sam Cowan Under Lockdown on November 28, Lock-in-Live with Calum MacPhail and Sean Cousins from Ho-Ro on December 12, and the Johnny Cash Roadshow on January 26 next year.

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