Plans for a multimillion-pound brewery which would have transformed the Highland capital’s riverside area have been rejected by councillors.
The owners of the Glen Mhor Hotel wanted to build a spectacular glass-fronted complex featuring a restaurant and visitor centre alongside their premises on the east bank of the River Ness.
But the scheme was scuppered yesterday by worries over parking, road safety and the large scale of the proposed building.
Members of Highland Council’s south planning applications committee voted to block the plans, despite their own officials recommending them for approval.
Councillors agreed the development would bring benefits – including up to 12 new jobs.
But they could not overcome fears about parking problems and the potential impact on busy Haugh Road.
Hotel owners Jon and Victoria Erasmus, who previously said the project was the most ambitious in the city centre, could not be reached for comment last night.
The couple were not present when councillors inspected the site yesterday morning, or at the later debate.
The brewery scheme was aimed at providing a major new tourist attraction for Inverness.
A large glass-fronted building would have been built beside the hotel complex, and two smaller existing buildings would have been demolished.
The council received four objections from neighbours who feared noise and odour nuisance from the brewery and the impact on local roads. Others felt river views would be marred.
However, planner Jim Harbison had recommended approval, and said there would be benefits to the local economy.
But he admitted that the applicants had failed to provide local authority officials with information about the estimated number of coaches and delivery trucks, or the operation of a planned biomass boiler.
The applicants’ suggestion that visitors could leave their cars around busy Bellfield Park or in other city locations was also criticised.
Inverness Central councillor Richard Laird said he wanted to support the plans but could not overlook the road safety issues on Haugh Road and Ness Bank.
Colleague Donnie Kerr said only 33 parking spaces at the rear of the hotel was inadequate and could lead to visitors parking in a sheltered housing complex nearby.
He added: “In one way it saddens me that the site is not big enough to accommodate the development. Or is it not small enough to fit?”
Mr Kerr was also concerned that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency had not been consulted over potential flooding in the area.
Inverness South councillor Thomas Prag said the owners were to be “applauded” for their plans, but he conceded that his colleagues had raised too many issues for the plans to be “tweaked”.
Despite a suggestion from Inverness West councillor Allan Duffy, Inverness that the application be deferred for further discussions, committee members rejected the plans on the grounds of inadequate parking, their incompatibility with the local roads network, and the fact the building line was too far forward of the existing hotel.
However, it is now open to the couple to lodge an appeal with the Scottish Government against the refusal.
Chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, Stewart Nicol, said he was “disappointed” with the decision.
He added: “There were challenges with the proposal but overall it was an innovative scheme and would have been a welcome addition to the city.
“It would have been part of a visit to Inverness, not the sole reason for it. People would have parked somewhere else in the city and visited the brewery.”
And Pat Haydyn, chairwoman of Crown Community Council, said she was surprised by the decision.
She said members were supportive of the application but felt that “the main issue of parking should have been addressed by the owners”.