Controversial plans for a rubbish sorting site which were binned by Highland Council have been put back on track by the Scottish Government.
The decision to allow the plant to be built beside the scenic Caledonian Canal has left objectors furious – and the local authority considering its next move.
There are fears the Alness-based Munro Construction project will lead to a residential area of Inverness being plagued vermin, nasty smells and traffic problems.
More than 30 local businesses, Scottish Canals and Merkinch Community Council – which covers a nearby housing estate – objected to the proposals to build a waste transfer station at Carsegate Road.
Last year, Highland Council’s south planning committee voted to reject the scheme.
And city-centre members who led the opposition to the plans said last night they were “very disappointed” by a government reporter’s decision to approve them on appeal.
Inverness Central councillor Donnie Kerr said: “I’m very disappointed for all the traders in the area who have consistently argued that this is a highly inappropriate development.
“The local members will be talking to the council’s legal team to see what can be done. I believe there are some areas where we can appeal and there may be alternatives routes we can take.
“We’ll need to look at the reporter’s decision in detail before deciding what can be done.”
He said the area was more retail than industrial in nature, and that the presence of the recycling centre so close to other businesses could damage economic growth.
Fellow city-centre member Richard Laird said the council owned the land and would need to lease the site to Munro before the company started operating.
He added: “It’s especially disappointing as the local businesses objected, so did the local community council, so did Scottish Canals, local councillors and ultimately the planning committee.”
Scottish Government reporter Martin Seddon overturned the committee’s decision, and said the concerns expressed by members could be mitigated.
The plans will allow almost 25,000 tonnes of rubbish a year to be transported to the building before it is sorted and moved to landfill and recycling centres.
Applicant Munro said the scheme would not cause problems for the local area.
It stressed that all waste would be stored inside a large shed to reduce smell nuisance.
The company wants to convert an existing large storage building to handle waste from its skip-hire business and Highland Council’s collections.
About 15 vehicles a day would bring the refuse in, with a further eight bulk carriers taking it away.
Local businesses at the industrial estate have raised concerns about smells and vermin coming from the plant.
Graham Clark, boss of the nearby Anderson Clark car dealership, said he feared the waste transfer centre could have a “detrimental impact” on his business.
He added: “It just makes me wonder what’s the point of us having local councillors when someone can just come in and overrule the rest of the process.
“I am very disappointed with the decision that has been reached here.”
Alistair Scrimgeour, chief executive of car dealer Dicksons of Inverness, said he was “deeply concerned” by the decision.
He added: “Highland councillors rejected this for good reason.”
Mr Seddon has added a number of conditions, including insisting that no more than 610 tonnes of waste should held on the site at any time.
He has also asked for a new boundary fence to be built round the site “in the interests of the amenity of the area and adjacent businesses”.
No one from Munro’s responded to the Press and Journal’s requests for a comment yesterday.
The reporter’s decision can be appealed at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, but only on points of law.