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Aberdeen Standard Investments, behind planned expansion at out-of-town retail park at Inshes in Highland capital, hits back as council officers say proposals should not be supported

By Val Sweeney

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Plans have been submitted for a major expansion at Inshes Retail Park in Inverness.
Plans have been submitted for a major expansion at Inshes Retail Park in Inverness.

The developers behind major expansion plans at an out-of-town retail park in the Highland capital have hit back after council officers said the proposals were inappropriate and should not be supported.

Planning permission in principle to develop shops, a public house and restaurant, community allotments plus car parking and new access roads next to Inshes retail park was given in 2017 following a public inquiry.

Aberdeen Standard Investments is now applying for a three-year extension to enable further applications regarding conditions to be approved.

Concerns have been raised by the Eastgate Shopping Centre’s owners about the development’s potential impact on the city centre, which is still dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Highland Council’s development plans team also contends there have been major changes since planning permission was given and the development would be against existing council policy.

“The council has no recent market evidence to support its position.” - Pritchett Planning Consultancy

But in a strongly-worded response on behalf of Aberdeen Standard Investments, the Edinburgh-based Pritchett Planning Consultancy insists arguments put forward by the council are unfounded and that the local authority has not addressed retail provision in Inverness.

It maintains the retail warehouse market is buoyant and growing in the city.

It contends: “The council’s assertions that the pandemic has resulted in a large amount of floorspace being available in the city centre and therefore there not being an overriding need for new floorspace at Inshes is unfounded and not based on any thorough assessment of the wider retail market.

“It should also be noted that even the RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) research quoted by the council officers similarly fails to address this issue as it relates to Inverness and does not draw any definitive conclusions as to the results of the pandemic on retail trends and shopping patterns.

“Many commercial commentators and retail market experts continue to conclude that retail warehousing is a buoyant sector of the retail market.

“The council has no recent market evidence to support its position.”

It says the application is supported by council policies which support regeneration of Inshes and expansion of the retail park on to Dell of Inshes.

“The city has experienced retail recessions and retail expansion over this time and Inshes has established itself as an important centre in the Inverness market serving the expansion areas of Raigmore, Inshes and Milton of Leys,” it states.

The developer also notes the council appears to be considering reallocating the site for residential development in a review of the local development plan.

“It is surprising that such a major shift in policy has not been discussed first with the land owner,” it states.

“The council has been aware for many years that the site is under the ownership of Aberdeen Standard Investments and it has never been mentioned to them that there was a possibility of re-designating the site.”

It also takes issue with the council’s assessment that the proposed development would not be a sustainable expansion of the retail park because it could increase dependence on private car use – yet in the same assessment it is suggested that, should permission be given, it is recommended that land be safeguarded for use only to deliver Inshes phase two junction improvements.

“This is designed to improve traffic flow and deal with congestion in the wider east Inverness area, suggesting that the council is seeking to provide improvements in this area for car use in particular,” it states.

The response concludes the application relates to a renewal of a planning permission in principle and that matters of detail are covered by conditions.

“The development plan policies relating to the site have not altered since the original grant of planning permission at appeal,” it states.

“The delay in implementation has been obvious relating to the pandemic and also the council’s lack of progress on new road infrastructure.”

Related story: Expansion plans at out-of-town retail park are inappropriate

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