BY LISA FALCONER
Councillors are to visit Plockton next month to decide on a planning application submitted by the local Free Church congregation.
At a meeting of Highland Council’s north planning applications committee last week it was decided a site visit was necessary, despite the objections of some councillors.
The application is for the construction of a two-and-a-half-storey building, divided into two flats, on Innes Street between the old Free Church and manse. The plot was retained by the Plockton and Kyle Free Church congregation following the sale of the church in 1995 and is currently leased as gardens to the neighbouring properties, which have themselves been converted into residential accommodation.
Plockton’s Free Church congregation are seeking to develop the land after successfully purchasing the village’s Church of Scotland – which has housed their services for around 30 years – for £90,000 last year.
The application has attracted 48 objections from 38 households – both in the village and without – citing the loss of rare green space in the village, increased pressure on parking spaces and concerns that the new build would block daylight from neighbouring properties.
Speaking at the planning meeting last week, local councillor Biz Campbell called for a site visit, receiving backing from committee chair Councillor Isobel McCallum.
However, Councillors Angela MacLean and Drew Millar, representing Dingwall and Seaforth and Skye respectively, were against the proposal and voiced concerns about the precedent it might set. Councillor MacLean said: “I know Plockton is a beautiful place and I would love to go and visit but I don’t think it is required to decide on this applciation. I checked on Google Maps when I was going through the application, going up and down the streets, and I know it’s not the same but I really don’t think we need a visit to determine it.”
Councillor Millar added: “We have Google Maps. We are told by officials here that you can see everything perfectly well with Google Maps these days. Perhaps 10 years ago when we didn’t have such a thing it was necessary but everything is at our fingertips now. It is going to cost the council a huge amount of money to take us to Plockton for an application which is as small as this. I think it’s ridiculous.”
Thurso councillor Donnie Mackay also backed a visit, citing the number of objections received, but was told by the committee clerk that the number of objections “means nothing and should not come into thinking or a decision at all”.
The motion to conduct a site visit to Plockton was passed by nine votes to five and councillors will visit Plockton on Monday 9th June.