Controversial £200 million plans for up to 800 new homes at the site of the former Fairways golf course in Inverness are being submitted to Highland Council today by developers who claim they will create about 150 construction jobs.
The proposal also includes space for businesses and a primary school, together with improved local leisure space, but has faced opposition from the outset.
And one community group has already signalled its intention to hold an emergency meeting, while the developer has been warned it will not find the process plain sailing.
Opponents hoped Aberdeen-based Kirkwood Homes had decided not to proceed with the proposal after council planners recommended last year – during consultation for the forthcoming Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan – that the land should be a no-go area for future development.
But in a statement issued yesterday by the Liberty One Communications public relations company, Kirkwood’s managing director Colin Crombie confirmed they intend to proceed with their plans.
He said: “We are pleased to be bringing forward proposals for new family homes at Fairways in Inverness, of which 25% will be affordable.
“In addition we are working with commercial partners to deliver new business and leisure opportunities, building on and improving the existing offer in the area.
“The construction phase of the development will create 125-150 jobs, with an overall investment figure of around £200 million.
“This is vital investment to Inverness at such a critical time for the economy due to the impact of the pandemic.
“It is important that all those who wish to live in Inverness have the opportunity to do so.”
The developer said it would today submit a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) to Highland Council for 800 new family homes, a new two-stream primary school site and commercial/business land, including an upgrade of the existing nine-hole golf course.
Kirkwood said it would launch an online consultation on March 22, including two live chat sessions on March 31 and May 19.
The developer is also writing to nearly 1,200 residents and businesses for feedback.
Mr Crombie said: “Unfortunately we are not able to welcome local residents to a public exhibition in a community hall.
“However, we are looking forward to meeting and consulting the public via our online consultation.”
The decision to forge ahead with the plan has angered the community, with local councillor Ken Gowans saying: “I think the developers will find this a very challenging application to get approval for.
“However, I would be very surprised if they had not already made a full assessment of a possible refusal and are already thinking about an appeal process.
“It is not to the developers’ credit that, if they are speaking to the community, they are doing it with a specialist planning PR company – which says it all.”
Mark Lindley-Highfield, chairman of Slackbuie Community Council, said: “Residents are very concerned.
“A development like this will have an impact on infrastructure, such as roads, and create a flooding issue. There will also be a loss of green space.”
And a spokesman for Inshes and Milton of Leys Community Council added: “We will be calling an emergency meeting with the community.
“The email feedback regarding this application is, so far, 100% against the proposal.”
Opponents say the proposed development is going against council officials’ advice given in the consultation on the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan.
That consultation is, however, ongoing until April 1 and has still to go before the full council for approval.
Fairways was sold in July 2019 due to falling membership and bought for a reputed £3 million by Fairways Inverness Ltd, whose directors include developers David Cameron and David Sutherland.