A Moray housing development that was unanimously rejected by the council could now become part of the authority’s housing stock.
The council threw out Springfield Properties’ plans for 22 homes in Hopeman after receiving more than 250 objections from locals.
However, that decision was later overturned by the Scottish Government ministers – who cited the “urgent” need for affordable housing in the area.
Now it has been revealed that the Forsyth Street homes will become part of Moray Council’s own housing stock as part of a £600,000 investment, less than a year after it attempted to halt the plans entirely.
Last night, the latest instalment in the saga was described as “bizarre” but was welcomed by locals.
Meanwhile, Moray Council housing officers stressed that now permission was granted for the homes it was prudent to use them to address the authority’s 3,500-strong waiting list.
But Heldon and Laich councillor Ryan Edwards feared how the news would be perceived by some residents.
He said: “It’s certainly bizarre. If this had been another housing association coming forward then at least I could tell people the council was abiding with its original position.
“I know housing is needed, I’m not against that, it’s the way this has been done. Local people were totally against it, Moray Council planning officers were against it, councillors unanimously rejected it – but it’s going to become part of the council after all.
“There are other areas to the west of Hopeman which have been identified by the council for the future but instead they’ve decided to take this opportunity with Springfield.”
Housing proposals for the south of the village were first suggested by Springfield in 2005 as part of a long-term vision to build 700 houses.
However, the plans were rejected by Moray Council and the decision was upheld by the Scottish Government.
New proposals for 22 homes were again thrown out by the council because the buildings would be built on land which was deemed not fit for development due to flooding fears – despite Springfield pledging to build a channel to collect surface water near the homes if they were approved.
The Scottish Government has now overturned the decision on appeal after disagreeing with the council’s assessment the homes were out of character with the rural setting.
Last night, Carmen Gillies, who opposed the plans and whose house borders the proposed site, welcomed the council taking on the development over other housing associations.
She said: “Clearly we didn’t want it to happen but now that it is I think this is the best outcome for us.
“Because it’s under council governance, it will give us more influence about ensuring the homes play their part in ensuring our community continues to be as vibrant as it is.”
It is understood that construction on the homes is expected to be completed late next year.
At yesterday’s meeting of the council’s communities committee, Graeme Davidson, the authority’s housing strategy and development manager, stressed there was a need for the homes in the area.
He said: “We have identified a need for social rented accommodation in Hopeman. On that basis, we want to deliver housing to meet that need.
“Clearly the site, which will be for affordable housing, now has planning consent. It is better for us to use the site to meet that priority need in Hopeman.”