Councillors reject Lochaber care-home plan

Highland councillors yesterday rejected proposals to build a 90-bed care home in Lochaber, with one local member branding it “a granny farm on an industrial scale”.

Edinburgh-based Kingsgate Developments proposed the privately-run £5million development to be built at Camaghael, Lochaber, close to the Fort William Health Centre and Lochaber High School.

They claimed it was a much-needed asset for the community and would bring 100 jobs to the area.

At the Ross, Skye and Lochaber planning applications committee yesterday, Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Brian Murphy said the care home’s design was “institutional” and was a “granny farm on an industrial scale”.

Mr Murphy, who was given permission to speak despite not being a member of the committee, was supported by fellow local councillors Michael Foxley and Donald Cameron. Dr Foxley said he had concerns about the impact on the local health centre and neighbouring street’s traffic flow, while Mr Cameron said there was enough provision in the area already as “there are a number of care homes only an hour from Fort William”.

He also argued that councillors in Lochaber were currently trying to help elderly residents stay in their own homes for longer and receive treatment from there.

Despite planning officers recommending the proposal be granted planning permission in a report put before the committee, Mr Cameron told members not to put any weight behind it as “the report shows it has no local knowledge”.

Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Peter Cairns reminded members that they were “only deciding on matters regarding planning” however.

Mr Cairns said: “The proposals are the same scale and mass as the nearby high school and health centre.

“If the proposal is too big and it doesn’t make any money, that’s the applicant’s fault.

“A lot of people in Lochaber don’t like this proposal, but I have heard nothing that raises any planning issues.”

The proposals received six letters of objection from four addresses and one letter of support.

NHS Mid Highland Community Health Partnership also objected to “a nursing home of this size being built in Lochaber”.

Mr Cameron put forward a motion to refuse planning permission on the grounds that the size of the development would have a serious effect on residential and community areas and that there were alternative provisions for care homes around Fort William. Dr Foxley seconded the motion and planning permission was refused, nine votes to two.

Skye councillor Ian Renwick was not allowed to vote via video link, despite being a planning committee member, due to a technical problem which meant the committee was unable to see him.

Area solicitor Alaisdair Mackenzie told members that this was against council protocol.

No one from Kingsgate Developments could be contacted for comment last night.