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Seattle, Madrid, London, Auckland – now for Kingussie

By Tom Ramage

Maria Thomson has defended her vision for a new-look Kingussie police station.
Maria Thomson has defended her vision for a new-look Kingussie police station.

A MOVE to put Kingussie "at the forefront of environmentalism" with a High Street of living walls is proving controversial, with objectors criticising it as "overdevelopment".

A plan has been submitted by Maria Thomson, representing Haynes Asset Management, to introduce living walls – self sufficient vertical gardens – to the town after the success of similar projects across the globe.

However, objectors believe the proposal to develop Kingussie police station is not in keeping with the High Street.

Mrs Thomson has answered her critics on social media, calling for support from the public: "If you don't want Kingussie to be a commuter town with no High Street and a dwindling tourist sector please comment on the Kingussie Police Station, Regeneration Kingussie High Street, phase 1.

"It doesn't matter if you live in Kingussie, I would love to hear your views. Maybe I am wrong and this is what you want, but I will start posting my vision for Kingussie.

"I want to follow in the footsteps of Seattle, Madrid, London, Auckland and many more.

"I want to cover the ugly Kingussie police station in a living wall. The design for Kingussie police station that I have submitted is cutting edge environmental architecture."

She told the Strathy: "My intention is to extend this idea in time. I would love to see an avenue of vertical gardens on the High Street making Kingussie the best place to live.

"Lets put ourselves at the forefront of environmentalism. Attracting new businesses, increasing tourism and highly paid jobs."

An artist's impression of how a living wall on the former police station would look.
An artist's impression of how a living wall on the former police station would look.

She and her husband Gordon, who live on Kingussie High Street, handle properties in Edinburgh which, she pointed out, had been voted the best city in the world to live in: "One of the factors is that it is 49.5% green."

Mrs Thomson insisted: "That is the way forward, if we believe in saving our high streets, reducing the effect of the human footprint upon the planet and cutting down on waste."

But objections have met the actual plan for the development of the former police station, where Mrs Thomson envisages a commercial to residential conversion to eight flats.

Among the objectors is former local councillor Dave Fallows who warns of "overdevelopment, having the appearance of 'shoehorning in' the maximum possible number of dwellings without regard to design considerations or practicability".

He has drawn planners' attention to disability compliance, insufficient information on types of tenure, shortage of parking spaces, difficulties over bin collection and misleading street level photographs.

"The overall feeling of incongruity engendered would be bad enough if an extension of the existing finish were to be proposed, but blue shiplap finish is, in the context of Kingussie High Street, completely irrational and wholly unsympathetic."

Reasons to support ambitious plan

Maria Thomson's defence of living walls:

  • They reduce the effects of the human foot print on the world
  • Improve air quality
  • Reduce energy consumption
  • Reduce noise inside and out
  • Are so important that Seattle passed a city ordinance that new developments need to have at least 30% of their walls covered with foliage
  • They attract shoppers to businesses
  • They increase the value of the surrounding properties
  • They look pretty

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