Long-awaited plans for a major development in the heart of Aviemore comprising a grand hotel, holiday apartments and commercial units are being recommended for approval despite fears it could ‘permanently and irrevocably change’ the character of the village.
Upland Developments Ltd’s proposal will be considered tomorrow by members of the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s (CNPA) planning committee for the brownfield site which once housed the Laurel Bank Victorian villa, the Boy Scouts hut and a funfair family.
The main issues raised by opponents – which include the village community council – are:
• The scale of development;
• The provision of vacation accommodation rather than local affordable housing.
• Increase traffic congestion on Grampian Road.
• The impact on the integrity of the protected Milton Burn.
CNPA planning officers have acknowledged that the development will have an “individual character”, but believe it will fit in with its bustling location in the center of the village.
The proposal is for 23 two- and three-bedroom self-contained holiday apartments, six shops, a three-storey 83-bedroom hotel and parking for 86 cars, including an underground facility on the now vacant 0.8-hectare central site overlooking the main street of Aviemore.
Click here for images of the hotel, holiday apartments and shops on offer
There were plans for a shopping complex on the same site by village businessman Alistair Grant in the mid-2000s, but they never materialized.
Emma Bryce, CNPA’s planning officer, says in her report that the development “will contribute to the vitality and sustainability of the existing town centre.”
She continues: ‘It is recognized that this development will have individual character and appearance and will be in contrast to the local landscape pattern and linear streetscape, although Aviemore’s Grampian Road frontage already has a wide variety of forms of development in the surroundings.
“The most significant difference in the proposed development is in the height of the buildings which are one storey or higher than most nearby buildings, although not incompatible with a bustling city center location.
“The height of the buildings will inevitably impact views across the site to the hills to the west of the A9.
“The site is however identified for mixed-use development opportunity under the adopted local development plan, and therefore any future redevelopment on this prominent central location is expected to result in new forms of development which would alter the character of the landscape of street. .”
Ms Bryce said the design philosophy is to create a focal point in Aviemore.
She says: “The development will introduce uses designed to attract people – tourist accommodation, restaurants, cafes and shops – and will include public amenity space overlooking Grampian Road.
“It is envisaged that this will become a ‘gathering point for people’ which in turn will create a formal center in the center of the village.”
But Aviemore Community Council have changed their position and are now opposing the request as they have seen ‘little evidence’ that their previous concerns have been addressed by the company.
Chairman Peter Long said: “This is a large-scale development that could permanently and irrevocably change the character of the village core.
“The proposals seem to focus solely on providing facilities for visitors.
“There is nothing here for locals – it should be noted that there are already several vacant commercial premises in the village and many existing local businesses are already struggling to attract staff, partly due to the local housing crisis Such development can only exacerbate these problems.
Highland Council’s transport planning team maintained several concerns and said the full impact of vehicles had not been properly assessed.
They say the development will ‘create an unpleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists and discourage active travel’.
Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group points out that Milton Burn is used by otters, lampreys, salmonids and supports amphibian reproduction.
Chairman Gus Jones said: “The built footprint of the development site is too close to the important Milton Burn watercourse which supports significant biodiversity.
“We consider there should be a much greater separation between burning and built development.”
Some 18 objection letters were submitted, some based on circular correspondence calling for “central flats to be reserved for those who live and work here”.
In this regard, Ms Bryce says other allocated housing sites in the LDP “will ensure that appropriate housing, including affordable housing, is delivered to meet the needs of the local community”.
A 20 minute site visit will be conducted by members of the Planning Committee prior to the meeting.
• The full planning document can be read here, including objections