Locals unhappy with Gairloch cafe application

BY LISA FALCONER
lisa.falconer@whfp.co.uk

A retrospective planning application for a cafe in Gairloch in Wester Ross has attracted widespread dissent in the local community.

An application lodged with Highland Council by the Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum seeks a retrospective partial change of use for their centre, which houses tourist information, exhibitions, a community shop, college classes and a local produce market. Currently the centre sells baking and hot drinks and one day a week – when the market is running – also offers lunches of soup and sandwiches.
In a letter supporting their application, Gale state that granting of the retrospective application would “formalise” the current situation and add that they are following advice given to them by Highland Council’s planning department at the time of the original application.

However, the statement admits that originally it was only intended to serve refreshments to those using tourist information but that “as time has gone by the provision of light refreshments has gradually been extended to all customers”.

The plans state that if approved the cafe would offer seating for 20 people, operating six days a week year-round and maintaining the current level of service. It is anticipated it would serve around 4,000 covers per year.

The plan has sparked concerns locally and so far 40 public comments have been made on the application, only six of which are in support of Gale.

The most common fears regard the impact the cafe would have on local restaurants as well as a lack of parking at the centre, which has already caused issues for residents in neighbouring houses.

While taking a broadly neutral stance, Gairloch Community Council stated that “the main issues lie in parking and access facilities in and around the building” and that these existing problems would “of course be exacerbated with the arrival of any new developments on the site”.

The Wester Loch Ewe Community Council also voiced concerns about the effect on other businesses, given the fact that the centre is a recipient of public funding. The submission says that “it cannot be in the community interest for one cafe to operate assisted by public funds in competition with other local businesses which have had no such assistance”.

Other comments on Highland Council’s eplanning site include the following:

  • It has been lovely to know there is a place in the village for a cheap bowl of soup in a light, warm and friendly environment one day a week throughout the winter, and no danger of it closing for a month because of lack of visitors or owner/manager holiday.
  • I think more than enough evidence has been submitted to show that, regardless of whether it meets formal guidelines, the parking and access road provision for this development is already inadequate in the view of local residents.
  • There is no requirement for another cafe in our area, it will clog up the parking totally in that area of Gairloch, and instead of enhancing our area, will take business away from locals who have worked hard in their businesses to pay their rent and rates, etc without public funding, and support the whole community.
  • I wish to object to this application. The original planning application for the GALE Centre included a cafe and B&B accommodation, both of which were strongly opposed by the local community, so GALE modified their planning application to remove both the cafe and the accommodation. GALE are now trying to bring back the cafe by the ‘back door’ and I feel that there are already enough cafes in Gairloch.