Inverness: rejected city centre hotel plans may win permission

Inverness: rejected city centre hotel plans may win permission

Controversial plans for a new hotel in Inverness which were rejected by councillors who branded the designs “hideous” and “Lego-style” might still win permission.

Five months ago, Dutch property company Vastint sought approval to build a 168-bedroom Moxy Hotel at the site of the former Glebe Street swimming pool, which has been derelict for nearly 20 years.

The hotel would also have a restaurant, bar and leisure complex but some members of Highland Council’s south planning committee described artist’s impressions of the hotel as “absolutely bogging” and “like a mistake from the 1960s”.

After much heated debate, the committee voted 8-7 to narrowly reject the plans, but the company has now lodged an appeal.

Scottish Government reporter Robert Maslin has been appointed to consider the case and is expected to make his findings known by March 14, following a visit to the site.

Glasgow-based Keppie Design, which is acting for Vastint, maintains the plans should be approved as they meet the requirement for hotel development outlined in Highland Council’s development plan.

Keppie associate director Elaine Somerville said: “The proposed elevational treatment has sought to reflect the historic environment whilst delivering a contemporary design in line with the requirements of the Inverness city centre development brief.”

She also maintains key considerations, including a partial redesign, were developed in discussions with council officials to achieve a reduction in the building’s perceived scale and massing.

“It is considered that the council has not raised any matters that justify the refusal of the application to which this appeal relates,” she added.

Inverness Central councillor Bet McAllister is keen to see the proposal get the nod, possibly with one or two changes such as using special stonework as a concession to objectors.

“We are desperate for hotels in Inverness,” she said. “I hope the reporter will be complimentary towards this.

“The site is an eyesore. If the appeal doesn’t succeed, it could be there for another 25 years.”

Manager of Inverness Business Improvement District (BID), Mike Smith, also hopes it will win approval.

“Personally, I was surprised at this rejection, particularly given that this site has been derelict since before I moved to Inverness in 2004,” he said.

“While I am normally in favour of decisions being made locally, it will be interesting to see whether the reporter backs the committee’s majority view.”

But Thomas Prag, a former councillor and chairman of the council’s planning and development committee, who previously objected to the proposal as it stands, has reiterated his opposition in a letter to the reporter.

“I have had an interest in this particular location for many years – it is such a key site for the riverscape of Inverness and the last piece of the jigsaw to fall into place,” he said.

He appreciated efforts had been made to improve the design but said he felt the city was still entitled to ask for better at such a prominent location.

“I and many others would love to see a hotel on the site – particularly as it has an enviable vehicle-free river frontage, uniquely, which lends itself to public open space and associated facilities,” he said.

But he cautioned against accepting any design just to get “something” on the site.

Pat Hayden, chairwoman of Crown and City Centre Community Council, said there had been mixed views within her organisation about the plans prior to their consideration by Highland councillors.

“Some people didn’t like the architecture,” she said. “We didn’t want to hold it back and hoped the planning department would fine tune some of the issues causing concern.”

Source: Inverness Courier

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