A FRESH proposal to build a redesigned £4 million care home on a contentious site will be a defining issue in the Black Isle ward of the upcoming council elections.
That was the message after detailed plans of the 40-bed residential unit for the elderly was revealed at a public meeting in Fortrose, where a show of hands was overwhelmingly in favour of the development by the Parklands Group.
Now candidates running in the Highland Council elections in May are also being urged to make it clear where they stand on the issue.
Parklands Group was determined not to walk away from the Ness Road plot after the £3.5 million project for a 40-bed care home was turned down by planners last summer.
The company revealed last month that it had come up with a new proposal for a completely new design for the home, to be repositioned on the existing site.
A presentation of the plans was made at a special meeting held at the Black Isle Leisure Centre on Tuesday evening, which was chaired by Black Isle Cares trustee Brian Devlin.
Black Isle Cares was set up by local volunteers to improve services for the elderly and made public its support for the first planning application for the care home.
Mr Devlin told the Ross-shire Journal: “I was delighted to chair the meeting between local Black Isle residents and Parklands in order to discuss their plans for building a new care home in Fortrose.
“There is a crisis in care for older people in this community which has been caused by the closure of the Marine House care home in Rosemarkie. People who had expected to live out the remainder of their lives surrounded by their friends and family were dispersed to other sites.
“That is a matter of great regret and sadness for all involved. Now we have the prospect of a new purpose-built facility in the heart of our community.
“It’s fair to say that there was very strong support for the Parklands’ initiative. We took a vote at the end and there were 122 votes in favour and one against. It’s now time for people to stop prevaricating around this issue. We want all of the candidates standing for election in the forthcoming council elections to make it clear where they stand in relation to Parklands.
“This will be one of the most defining issues of the election on the Black Isle for many of us. It cannot be right that the weakest and frailest and most elderly are deprived of a critically needed facility because some do not like where it is to be built.”
Sarah Atkin, chair of Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council which objected to the previous proposal, also attended the meeting.
“In our stated intention to be open-minded about these plans the community council met the team from Parklands last week and I also attended Tuesday’s very informative public meeting,” she said.
“In addition I hope to make time to visit Parklands’ Muir of Ord home. The full community council will discuss the proposal at our April meeting once the application has been formally lodged.”
Ron Taylor, managing director of care group Parklands, said: “We were delighted at the large audience that turned out to back our plans.
“The people of Fortrose sent a very clear message to the Highland Council and to those who seek to represent them after May’s elections that they support our investment plans and want local politicians to act upon their views. The overwhelming view was that the needs of the community far outweigh a local plan that is now clearly out-of-date and does not make the necessary provision for accommodation for older people, as called for by the Highland Wide Local Development Plan.”
Parklands is expected to submit its revised plans after May’s local government elections.
It says the planned facility has been entirely redesigned to reflect its rural setting and will feature several wings built in the style of a farm steading.
Parklands claims the care home will employ 50 full-time equivalent staff, generating around £1 million for the local economy. As before, it has committed to a 50/50 split between private and NHS-funded residents.
Some people supporting the proposal took to the Ross-shire Journal Facebook page to voice their thoughts on the new proposal.
Flora Thomson said: “Time to think hard about future care facilities for the Black isle and to get this built.
“Having had the choice my late mum would have spent her last days on the Black isle instead of Alness which showed absolute care and compassion to her and us as a family.”
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