A9 motorhome site planned for North Kessock car park
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Controversial long-running plans to create a caravan park just north of the Kessock Bridge have re-emerged after Highland Council lodged a full planning application for the site.
The local authority is looking to create a caravan and motorhome site on land immediately to the east and west of the large car park and picnic area by the A9 above North Kessock.
If approved, the development would extend the existing picnic area and skirt the dual carriageway either side of Harry Gow's bakery.
The council is hoping to generate income from the region's booming motorhome trade, with the new site being geared more towards one-night stopovers for tourists travelling the Highlands rather than as longer stay accommodation.
The plans first emerged several years ago when Highland Council held local consultation over the proposals and later lodged a prior application notice (or PAN).
At the time, Knockbain Community Council's chairman John Stott said the community was evenly split 50-50 on the project, with some in favour, and others worrying over possible litter on neighbouring homes, as well as concerns over increased traffic on the short A9 access.
The PAN was later withdrawn in September 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the project went silent.
However, the proposal now appears to be back up and running following news of the new application for full planning permission.
As with the previous PAN, the plan is to create around 30 to 32 berths for motorhomes/campers, split evenly between land to the west and eastern sides of the existing car park on the A9's northbound carriageway. There is some uncertainty over the exact number of berths – documents in the application state the site will boast 30, but drawings of the site clearly depict 32.
A design statement submitted alongside the application said: "The proposal is to upgrade, improve and service the north western and south eastern portions of the site to provide overnight or longer visitor facilities to touring caravans and campervans.
"The existing picnic areas to the north west portion are upgraded, re-formed and adjusted or modified as necessary to provide 16 pitches with electric hook-ups. The south eastern portion is proposed as similarly redeveloped for 16 pitches, similarly serviced with hook-ups.
"The existing public toilets will be renovated, upgraded and extended to provide modern and high quality facilities with showers. The “dolphin watch” building is proposed as similarly upgraded and repurposed for a site maintenance store, possible vending facilities for visiting caravan/campervans and overall site control and management.
"Soft landscaping proposals include for existing mature tree protection, supplemental tree planting and selective removal."
The proposals will also result in the existing service/toilet block being extended and renovated.
Referencing previous concerns over potential increased traffic on the existing car park's short A9 access, a statement submitted with the plans said that while Transport Scotland had also raised the potential "intensification of use of the northbound exit onto the A9, particularly by caravans and such, given there is no existing merging taper", the agency noted that caravans and lorries already use the rest area and there is no history of accidents at the site.