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Plans for A9 visitor and retail centre near Kingussie are pushed back

By Tom Ramage

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Eric and Hannah Heerema are the owners of Balavil Estate by Kingussie.
Eric and Hannah Heerema are the owners of Balavil Estate by Kingussie.

A Badenoch estate’s controversial plans to create a farm shop, cafe and other visitors facilities from an old farm steading may not start until 2026, it has emerged.

The development at Balavil Estate just off the A9 north of Kingussie is being held up by the proposed dualling of the carriageway from Crubenmore to Kincraig.

The £3 billion project to dual the entire section from Perth to Inverness is not due for completion until 2025.

Cairngorms National Park Authority planning committee members gave the go-ahead in January 2018 to the Balavil project, then costed at around
£5 million, to convert and extend redundant farm buildings for commercial use.

But with the three-year time limit now approaching, the estate has had to submit applications for renewal of planning permission and Listed Building Consent for the site at Balavil Mains Farmhouse steading.

General manager Gary Culpan told the Strathy: “We’ve not amended the project in any way – it’s precisely the same as the one that was approved.

“But we have to plan ahead as we wait with Transport Scotland for things to progress on the dualling.

“We can’t properly start the work until they have that junction sorted out and we certainly wouldn’t want to hinder them with any work of our own.

“It may be another three years, but depending on how things go for Transport Scotland it could even be another five years with things as they are currently in the world due to coronavirus.”

Estate owners Eric and Hannah Heerema won the go-ahead to construct new buildings for cafe, catering and events use, along with formation of vehicle parking areas at Balavil Mains Farmhouse in the face of neighbouring community opposition.

Their application caused major concern to outlying communities including Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge, although Kincraig’s community council chose to stay neutral on the issue.

Fears were that the
House of Bruar type development could divert economic traffic from other businesses in the strath, but planners viewed things differently.

In recommending approval, they considered the new building works to be of good design, complementing the existing listed buildings, with a good landscape setting.

They said there would be no adverse environmental impacts after appropriate mitigation.

And the planners stated that “while appreciating the concerns of the community councils”, there was no evidence that the proposed development would have an adverse impact upon the viability of communities in the area.

The development comprises 671 square metres in total.

The applicants are now seeking planning consent for an extended period of seven years.

Planning papers state the public inquiry for the local dualling by Balavil is delayed until 2021 and construction of the wider carriageway is likely to take three years.

The agent states: “The proposed works are not likely to start until 2026 and that is not allowing for any delays in the A9 programme.”

The application has been called in by the CNPA’s planning officers.

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