A96 Corridor Framework Launch (19/12/07)

A planning blueprint, which sets out a 30-40-year development plan within the A 96 Corridor between Inverness and Nairn from 2011, was published today (Wednesday) by The Highland Council.

Covering all of the land eastwards from Inverness to the border with Moray and south to the B9006,  the A96 Corridor has been identified in both the Highland Structure Plan and Inverness Local Plan as the preferred location for long-term development.

The Framework Plan anticipates: -

• Investment of £3 billion.
• Infrastructure costs of £326 million.
• 20,000 new jobs.
• 16,500 new houses for 30,000 people. 

Council Convener Councillor Sandy Park, said:  “This document is a blueprint for the future growth of the Highlands. The A96 Corridor offers huge potential for the continued growth of both Inverness and the Highlands over the next 30-40 years. We encourage developers to recognise the huge opportunities that exist and to work with the Council and the local communities, using the framework plan as a guide.  We want to see high quality places being created in this area, with amenities and facilities that will make them attractive to live, to work in and to visit.”

Councillor Drew Hendry, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Planning Environment and Development Committee, welcomes the approach to meeting a projected decline in the Highland population.

He said: “We need to be in a strong position to ensure that the conditions are right for population growth and we can do this by building up a stronger and more diverse economy, ensuring a good supply of housing land and making sure that the necessary level of infrastructure is in place to allow it to happen.  By the same token, we want to make sure this happens in a way that does not damage the environment which attracts people to this area in the first place.  The A96 Corridor Framework is a good example of the kind of long term planning the Government is encouraging local authorities to put in place.”

The main elements of the A96 Corridor Framework include:

• East Inverness

East Inverness is the main future expansion area for the City of Inverness itself.  Along with the significant delivery of additional housing, business and commercial opportunities for the period after 2011, the delivery of a new campus site at Beechwood Farm are immediate priorities supported by the Framework.

The campus site at Beechwood is a priority not only for the Council, but also for a whole range of other partners involved, including Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Inverness College and the University of the Highlands & Islands.  The site offers the opportunity for a first class educational facility for the city, with all the sports facilities and economic development spin-offs which will hopefully follow.  A masterplan will be drawn up during the course of 2008, with the emphasis being placed very much on the creation of a green campus that the Highlands can be proud of.  
   
The plan identifies major expansion to Nairn’s housing land supply, which will begin to be built once existing housing areas at Lochloy and Sandown are completed.  In addition business and other employment opportunities are identified, as well as the education facilities and open space requirements to support growth.  The expansion areas have been identified within the context of the need for a by-pass for the town and this framework allows a strong case to be made to Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government for funding to be allocated within their current review of all transport projects in Scotland.

Deveron Homes have recently brought forward proposals for housing and business uses for land at Sandown to the west of the town.  These proposals will now be the subject of closer assessment by the Council.  In addition, Cawdor Estate and Cawdor Maintenance Trust are preparing a masterplan for land at Delnies (http://www.cawdorcastle.com/delnies/), and some community consultation has already been undertaken. 

• Whiteness

Following the closure of the McDermott oil platform construction site in 2004, the Whiteness Development Company was formed and bought the 800-acre brownfield development opportunity located near Ardersier. The objective is to create a new premier Highland resort - Whiteness.  The Whiteness masterplan proposes 1,950 new homes, a marina, hotel, local retail provision, education and leisure facilities.  Following a lengthy preparation and consultation period, an outline planning application was submitted in December 2005 and received planning permission (subject to a legal agreement being agreed with the Council) in November 2006.  The Whiteness Development Company have now instructed the well known urban design firm Farrells to prepare a detailed planning application for submission in the near future.  If approved, work will begin in 2008 and Whiteness will be completed by 2020.

• Dalcross

Along with the proposals which are being developed at the Inverness Airport Business Park and the golf complex at Castle Stuart, the principle of a new settlement at Tornagrain is also set out within the Framework.  If developed, this new settlement would provide up to 4,500 houses.  Moray Estates are working up their proposals for this new settlement, and expect to lodge an outline planning application in Summer 2008.   

It intended that the new settlement concept will be brought forward through the statutory Development Plan process, allowing the opportunity for debate and scrutiny at a Public Local Inquiry. 

• Green Framework

An important part of the Council’s strategy for the A96 Corridor is the delivery of a range of measures to sustain the environmental assets of the Corridor.  It is anticipated that over 90% of the corridor will remain undeveloped, and a green framework has been drawn up to support this.

This green framework seeks to ensure the protection and enhancement of the natural and cultural heritage assets of the area, including the Inner Moray Firth.  In addition, opportunities for the provision of recreation and leisure facilities are highlighted.  The Green Framework also establishes green wedges at critical locations in order to ensure existing and proposed settlements are clearly defined.

Critical to the delivery of the proposals contained within this Framework will be the provision of infrastructure such as the upgrading of the A96, education and health facilities and managed open space.  The Framework contains a protocol which sets out a consistent approach to the development industry for contributions towards these facilities.  

The consultants who prepared the Framework for the Council have estimated that around £326m of strategic infrastructure investment (excluding water and sewerage) is required to facilitate development across the Corridor.  This will require £151m (46%) of public investment and £175m (54%) of private contribution, which will be provided through the levels of contributions set out in the Framework document.  In line with the approach taken elsewhere in Inverness and throughout the country, developer contributions of between £7,000 and £11,000 per house have been established depending on the requirements for infrastructure within each development area.  Other land uses such as retailing will also be expected to contribute in line with the content of the protocols.

Scottish Water have already outlined their strategic support for this area by setting out the infrastructure that will be necessary for water supply and wastewater treatment.  The Council is also seeking to ensure funding for the upgrading of the A96 is made available through the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review, which is underway at the moment.  

Some concerns have been raised by other public bodies – most notably the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.  Following discussions with the Council, the agency is now supportive of the Framework being brought forward to the next stage, on the basis that further work is undertaken to ensure that the detailed masterplans that come forward avoid areas of flood risk, and that the proposals for water supply and wastewater treatment are progressed in tandem with developments coming forward. 

A number of objections have been received to the proposals contained within it, including some from local Community Councils and a newly formed action group.  In taking the development proposals for this area forward through the Local Development Plan, further community participation is seen as fundamental.  Both councillors are committed to involving as many people as possible in developing the strategy for the A 96 corridor.


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