Highland Council care home for elderly plan row defused

Controversial plans to extend a proposed care home for the elderly have been shelved with developers withdrawing an appeal to Holyrood ministers just weeks before their 30-bed project was due to go to a public inquiry.

But ministers could still become involved in the controversy because of a row over consent being given by Highland Council planning officials for an initial 60-bed unit without reference to elected councillors or statutory agencies.

Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Donald Cameron said yesterday: “While I am pleased that the company has withdrawn its 90-bed application they do have permission granted by officials under delegated powers to build a 60-bed home.

“No consultation was required with the statutory caring bodies or local councillors and this is a cause for concern with regard to building and planning for sustainable communities. We have lost the opportunity to raise this at the public inquiry but I intend to follow up this with the Scottish Government.”

Cheshire-based developers KGS Care Ltd acquired the site at Blar Mhor on the outskirts of Fort William from Apollo Capital Projects Ltd, which also built the neighbouring £7million Fort William Medical Centre.

Their proposed larger facility would be less than a mile from a site at Ardgour Road, Caol, where the council has plans for a 32-bed mixed care and nursing home to replace the existing 24-bed unit at Invernevis House at Fort William.

The companies say the larger 90-bed unit would represent a £6million investment in the Lochaber economy, creating up to 110 jobs.

But the council’s Ross, Skye and Lochaber area planning committee voted 6-4 to reject the company’s application to increase the number of beds to 90, despite a recommendation by officials for conditional approval.

Councillor Cameron, seconded by Lochaber’s provost and fellow councillor Allan Henderson, led opposition, despite a strong warning from officials that refusal would likely result in a successful appeal and costs awarded against the local authority.

The resultant three-day public inquiry was to have opened at Fort William on March 24 but KGS withdrew its appeal on February 17. No-one was available from either company to comment yesterday and a spokesman for Holyrood’s planning directorate said no reason had been given.

Councillor Cameron said the authority had prepared a robust defence of its refusal of consent which was based on concerns of NHS Highland, the Local Health Partnership and Highland Council’s Social Work Department.

“The fear was that this private company would have to import clients from around the UK and by doing so would place a severe strain on our local services.