Objections to Wester Ross eco-lodge development in Ullapool mount as villagers flag safety fears
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FURIOUS villagers in a Ross-shire community have slammed controversial plans for a luxury eco-lodge development warning it's an accident waiting to happen.
The scheme by Ossian Developments – which also plans a “welcome building”, seasonal staff quarters and a house on the slopes of Pàirc Mhòr, next to the Braes of Ullapool – has sparked scores of objections with dozens more being added every day.
The proposal envisages 16 luxury eco-lodges high on the hills above Ullapool.
But angry residents have hit out, arguing the increase in traffic turning off the steep access from Braes of Ullapool onto the busy A835 trunk road could have potentially deadly consequences.
The Wester Ross village is a visitor magnet and also a key ferry hub for links to the Western Isles.
Concerns over the impact on popular local woodland paths atop Ullapool Hill, damage to wildlife habitat, and the impact of the new lodges on views from the port village were also raised.
And they also argue that past applications for houses in the Braes area had been thrown out by the council owing to the unsuitability of the road to handle additional traffic.
Traffic fears also appear to be shared by Highland Council’s road planning team, who noted that even though Transport Scotland had not objected “the suitability of the A835 junction to safely accommodate additional vehicle movements is also a cause for concern”.
At the time of writing there were more than 170 separate objections to the proposals with more being added daily.
Concerned Braes resident, Gareth Mason is worried about the increased traffic on the narrow Braes road and the dangers posed by extra vehicles turning in and out of the junction with the A835.
He said: "I've got an eight and 10-year-old and that's the biggest issue, with [construction] lorries coming up here."
He also hit out at the developers over the size of the scheme, arguing that initial suggestions last year were that it would be eight pods and a welcome/visitor centre. Council transport planners who, objecting to the new plan, said it was "significantly larger" than originally indicated and that it will have "much greater" transport impacts.
"It just seems to have snowballed and snowballed," said Mr Mason, adding that if the application is permitted "then that opens the flood gates" to other development.
He is also concerned about the size of the window in which people can object. He said: "We only found out [about the 16 lodge application] on February 6. The closing date is the 26th. We should have known about this months ago. We just need to make sure we're getting heard."
Developers acknowledge that at least 0.3 hectares of woodland would be felled, potentially increasing to close to one hectare if "wind throw issues" put other newly-exposed trees at risk of toppling.
The proposals also include seven sections of “keyhole” felling to create viewpoints for eight of the lodges, but that new planting of native trees would also be carried out.
In a supporting statement, Ossian Developments acknowledged that the lodges would be visible from the harbour in Ullapool but claimed that they would be placed in gaps in the existing woodland where possible, and away from "very prominent sites" to "minimise the visual impact". However, a layout plan submitted with the application shows steep contour lines in front of each lodge.
They said: "The layout of the tourism lodges is designed to fit within this woodland setting and to use the existing natural topography to provide screening and shelter and reduce impact on both adjacent lodges and more distant neighbours. For example, building on the lip of an escarpment will be avoided and by using available natural terraces and hollows, each building can minimise impact on the skyline both from above and from below.
"Building on very prominent sites will be avoided, such as the Viewpoint Rock."
They also claimed that "existing road infrastructure is adequate" despite local worries.