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Crunch day looms for Grantown church redevelopment plans


By Gavin Musgrove

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A planning application which could be crucial to a project to revitalise a church in Grantown is to be decided tomorrow.

Inverallan
Inverallan

A review against refusal for four homes on land to the north east of Inverallan Church on the town’s Grant Road is being held by Highland Council’s Planning Review Body.

The application by Reidhaven Estate was initially refused by planning officers but will now be considered by committee members at Inverness headquarters.

Everyone connected with the Inverallan 20/20 project is keeping their fingers-crossed that this time the proposal will get the green light.

The project envisages a place of worship suitable for 21st Century but also “a place which can serve the wider community seven days a week, meeting identified needs”.

The bid to redevelop the historic church was first launched in early 2017.

Rev Gordon Strang, who is one of the leaders of the ambitious project, said: “Reidhaven Estate has committed to gift a substantial part of any proceeds from the sale of this land to Inverallan 20/20 for which we are extremely grateful to them.

“The Kirk Session fully support this planning application not just for the crucial funding it will give to help Inverallan become an asset for the wider community into the future but also the sympathetic design that Moxon Architects have developed that will be a valuable addition to the housing available in the centre of Grantown.

Rev Strang, who is Minister for Grantown (Inverallan) and the linked parishes of Cromdale and Advie and Dulnain Bridge, said: “Coronavirus has hampered progress with Inverallan 20/20 over the past few months but we’re really excited that the final plans are now taking shape.

“Along with a robust business plan and generous gifts such as that from Reidhaven Estate, we hope to bring all of this to the congregation and wider community next month and start the hard work of making the dream a reality.”

However, there remains concerns over the proposals for the four homes.

Alistair McLeod, of Seafield Avenue, states in his objection: “There really is no case for the removal of 91 established trees, part of the only remaining green belt within the town boundary.

“This is especially the case in these days of environmental concern...

"The planning authority should not be pressurised or obliged to grant approval to offset the financial costs of the church renovations.”

An estimated overall cost for Inverallan 20/20 has not been officially confirmed yet and no plans have been lodged to date.

The development phase alone is costing £90,000 with half of that sum met by grants from the Cairngorms National Park Authoriity and EU LEADER funding along with funds from the Co-op.

The rest, about £50,000, is coming from more than £70,000 brought in by the kirk so far in local fund-raising since the launch of the project.

Andrew Macpherson, of the Crathie-based architects Moxon, states in their submission to planners in response to the two continued objections: "The applicant is pursuing this application as it represents one of the principal funding sources for the renovation of Inverallan Church, allowing the facilities to be made more accessible and offering significant benefits to the local community.

"The applicant would be agreeable for this to be included as a condition of the consent and can provide any other written agreement as deemed necessary.

"The forestry officer acknowledged that under the Control of Woodland Removal Policy, the public benefit has been identified and that the compensatory planting proposals adequately dealt with his CoWR concern.

"The replacement planting is contiguous with the woodland connected to the site and represents an increase to the available amenity space with more diverse habitat creation.

" Unlike other green spaces in the town, the application site is not identified as a protected open space’ in the 2015 or 2020 Local Development Plan for Grantown."

The agent continues: "This application seeks to provide small, single-storey mid-sized family dwellings that would appeal to small families. Residents feel that a low impact small-scale amount of accommodation is needed to encourage young people to stay in the town."

Mr Macpherson concluded in the submission: "The applicant has a long history of supporting Inverallan Kirk as represented by this application. It offers little commercial gain for the estate and is principally being brought forward to aid the church restoration project.

"We trust the above clarifies the nature and motivations behind the request for review."



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