Skye couple get green light for historic hotel conversion planners had tried to block

Broadford Community Council chairman Hamish Fraser said the plans should never have been blocked in the first place. Photograph, Willie Urquhart

A Skye couple are aiming to breathe new life into an historic former hotel after councillors this week overturned an earlier planning refusal issued by local authority officials.

Eilidh and Iain Mcniven’s proposal to convert a dilapidated wing of Pier House in Broadford into two flats and bed and breakfast accommodation had fallen foul of authorities, largely because of the design of the windows and doors they planned to install.

However, members of the council’s planning review body ruled that, although the building’s appearance would be modified by the plans, all changes would be offset by the benefits of bringing the former hotel back into use.

After Tuesday’s meeting Mrs Mcniven said she and her husband were now looking forward to seeing their dream become reality.

She said: “We’re delighted that the outcome was in our favour after several weeks of anxious waiting.

“We can now rest happy that the Pier House will be looking its best with windows that are appropriate for our new development. We would like to thank everybody for the great support locally.”

The house was originally built in 1880 for Eilidh’s great grandfather Samuel Campbell, and for many years it operated as a temperance hotel.

Fire ravaged the building in the 1950s and, although part of the domestic side was occupied up until around 20 years ago, it has since lain dormant.

Campbell’s Hotel in its heyday

Councillors on the review body said the couple deserved sympathy and support in their vision to restore a building which had been in Mrs Mcniven’s family for four generations.

The couple’s supporting statement before planners said: “It is important to remember that this is a property that has been in the same family for 140 years and is about to become a new home for a young local family. The historic value of the property is not lost on them. However without intervention it may very well be lost entirely.”

Dingwall councillor Margaret Paterson said she thought it “sad” that obstacles had been placed in the way of a couple who proposed to put so much into a building that was “almost falling down”.

Lochalsh councillor Biz Campbell and Raymond Bremner, who represents Wick and East Caithness, also spoke in support of the couple’s plans.

Councillor Bremner said he believed the aluminium window frames, as proposed for the development, had changed considerably from previous types which did not stand up well to spray from seawater.

He added: “I have a lot of sympathy with the applicants and with the points made in their appeal. I don’t have an issue with the change of use.”

Broadford and Strath Community Council had lobbied in support of the couple, while neighbours and local businesses also backed the proposed conversion.

Community council chairman Hamish Fraser said: “They are proposing to restore a building that will become an asset to the community. It’s a common-sense decision to support a young couple who want to live and make a business here.”

Planning officials had turned down the original application on the grounds that it had breached three policies of the Highland-wide local development plan.

In their reason for refusal planners said modern windows and a door with patterns “is not in keeping with the character of a historic building”.

In his letter of support of the couple, local historian and broadcaster Professor Norman Macdonald said: “In many years of regularly attending Highland Council planning committee meetings at all levels I do not recall a single application where a big and ambitious idea has come to the brink of jeopardy over such relatively immaterial and tangential matters.”

Article by Keith MacKenzie