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Plug pulled on contentious Balintore holiday pods proposal amid community concerns

By Hector MacKenzie

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The Seaboard Centre in Balintore.
The Seaboard Centre in Balintore.

THE plug has been pulled on a contentious planning proposal aimed at helping to fund a hall at the heart of an Easter Ross community.

A bid to secure planning permission for five holiday pods and a gym on land adjacent to the Highland Council car park opposite the Seaboard Memorial Hall prompted a local opposition campaign.

It also sparked some social media comments which one local councillor, Alasdair Rhind, branded "abusive and threatening".

A statement issued this afternoon by the directors of the Seaboard Memorial Hall in Balintore addresses the issue and confirms the application is now being pulled.

It reads: " Over the past week there has been a great deal of discussion both in public and across social media in regard to the Planning Application submitted by the Seaboard Memorial Hall with Highland Council to erect five holiday pods and a gym on the land adjacent to the Highland Council car park opposite the Seaboard Memorial Hall.

"The directors are grateful for the support they have received from residents across the Seaboard community in relation to the application. However, they are also aware of the fact that the discussion around the planning application has led to divisions opening within some sections of the community between those supporting and those opposing the application.

"The directors had hoped that by pursuing this application, they would be taking steps to secure an additional funding stream to support the running costs and maintenance of the Seaboard Memorial Hall, as well as future community projects, in the years ahead. "However, the directors do not consider that proceeding with this application is in the best interests of the community if it leads to disharmony within the community, one in which they live and work and volunteer their time.

"In all the circumstances and taking into account the wide range of opinions which have been expressed over the past week or so, the directors have decided that it is in the best interests of the Seaboard community to withdraw the current planning application and have notified Highland Council planning department of their wish to do so.

"Whilst some residents feel that the Seaboard Memorial Hall is the heart of the community we appreciate that others do not. We will endeavour to continue to work hard to ensure that the Seaboard Memorial Hall remains open for the whole community."

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Linda Ross encountered Balintore's Mermaid of the North on a beautiful day. The sculpture is a major local visitor attraction.
Linda Ross encountered Balintore's Mermaid of the North on a beautiful day. The sculpture is a major local visitor attraction.

The application had been submitted by Seaboard Memorial Hall director, Maureen Ross long before she was elected to a seat on Highland Council following a local by-election which was prompted by the resignation of one of the sitting members.

She won that election with a resounding majority and, in line with protocol, informed Highland Council that her name was on the application and that, as a councillor, she could have nothing to do with any decision-making on it. This is an established practice if councillors have an interest in planning applications.

However she was still subjected to allegations of being "underhanded" and the pods proposal was the subject of a recent public meeting.

Today's front page. .
Today's front page. .
Maureen Ross.
Maureen Ross.

She had told the Ross-shire Journal ahead of the latest announcement that the goal was to identify a funding stream for the community hall which could ultimately employ local people. It's understood that energy costs for the hall – a non-profit charitable organisation – have doubled in recent years.

Councillor Alasdair Rhind, who is also a Tain and Easter Ross councillor, said those who had levelled scurrilous accusation via social media "should be ashamed of themselves".

An opposition group, Seaboard Together Opposes Pods (STOP), accused hall directors of failing in their duty to act in the interests of the community.

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