In The Beginning
Thursday, January 19, 2006, 10:53 PM
Below is an extract from the Minutes of Meeting of the Planning Committee held in the Council Chamber, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Wednesday, 29th March, 2000 at 10.30a.m.

This is the planning permission Tesco inherited when they bought the land.
See how it differs from what Tesco now want to build.


The Committee NOTED that arrangements had been made for the full Hearings Procedure to take place in relation to this application and that guidance notes for the conduct of the Hearings Procedure had been circulated.

There had been circulated Report No. PL13/00 dated 16th March, 2000 by the Director of Planning and Development on an outline planning application, Ref No. IN/1998/933, by Tulloch Gray Ltd for the construction of a District Centre comprising a supermarket, petrol filling station, travel motel and licensed restaurant/lounge bar, neighbourhood shopping centre, community facilities and future commercial use at Ness-side Dores Road, Inverness.

The proposal did not entirely match the allocations in the Local Plan and the Committee were advised that the proposals for a supermarket and hotel should be viewed as speculative, in advance of completion of Phases 3 and 4 of the Southern Distributor Road (SDR). The development of this land had been anticipated after Phases 3 and 4 of the SDR and the calculated contributions from the site had not been relied on to secure the funding of those phases. It was on this basis that the Director had considered the application to be premature and recommended it for refusal. Mr W Hepburn, Principal Planner, outlined the location of the proposals and explained the various components of the District Centre proposal.

The Committee was reminded of the Development Plan Policies for this area in relation to town centre retailing (NPPG8), transport and planning (NPPG17) and accessibility to community facilities and services (The Highland Council Structure Plan). The Inverness, Culloden and Ardersier Local Plan outlined various housing areas making provision for over 600 houses in the immediate Ness-side area between Dores Road and the River Ness. The application substantially extended beyond the Local Plan allocation for a District Centre into an area zoned for housing with the potential for losing approximately 70 houses. The issues connected with the proposals related to the degree of compliance with the Local Plan in terms of their physical extent, content and timing. The scale of the proposed supermarket exceeded the intentions of the Local Plan and no operator had been specifically identified. In addition, it was difficult to see the demand for a travel lodge or its locational advantage prior to phase 5 of the SDR and an appropriate linkage to the A82(T).

It was hoped that Phases 3 and 4 of the SDR could be commenced during autumn 2000 and completed during 2001. This development was not expected to take place prior to Phases 3 and 4 of the SDR being completed. The route of Phase 5 of the SDR was still being aligned by the Roads and Transport Service.

Hearings Procedure

Mr D Sutherland and Mr G Johnstone spoke in support of the application on behalf of the applicants, Tulloch Gray Limited. Mr Sutherland explained the nature of the partnership and expressed surprise at the recommendation to refuse planning permission for the application. The application was speculative in nature and it was considered unfair that it should have been criticised for that reason. The applicants had considered the whole Ness Castle area in relation to their proposed application and worked together closely with Planning Officials since 1997. The District Centre proposal was not inexpensive and not without risk. However, the need for such a facility at this location had become convincing enough for interest to be expressed by developers and operators. It was accepted that the proposed development encroached onto land zoned for housing. This infringement would be counter-balanced by the provision of large areas of open space. A Traffic Impact Assessment and a Retail Impact Assessment had been prepared and the applicants were disappointed with the recommendation. The applicants were prepared to make a contribution to the SDR and considered the application to be within the scope of the Local Plan having taken advice from Planning Officials and having held in abeyance an application for housing development.

Mr G Johnstone stressed that the application did not intend to create an "out of town" shopping centre, rather a District Centre which would be welcome in the area. The existing Co-op supermarket at Inshes was 3˝ miles from the site and the town centre 2 miles from the site. Local inhabitants would, therefore, require to travel between 1 and 3˝ miles for petrol and groceries. The area had a population comparable to that of Nairn or Alness and so justified the proposals for a supermarket and a petrol filling station. Some 57% of the application was devoted to landscaping. A local church had approached the developers for a community centre development which had been accommodated within the proposals. The applicants had worked closely with the Roads and Transport Service to design a road system that would work well. The developers were willing to contribute financially to the SDR together with the traffic calming measures as proposed – a roundabout and a pedestrian crossing.

In relation to the four reasons for refusal of the application, Mr Johnstone explained that although the District Centre would occupy land partly zoned for housing the community facilities and open space proposed would more than outweigh the disadvantages. In order for the District Centre to be financially successful, the proposed supermarket required to be of a sufficient size. The proposals for a 20,000 square feet supermarket met with the requirement of NPPG 8 on retail developments which indicated a maximum of 30,000 square feet for a retailing outlet in a situation similar to Ness Side. It was suggested that the size of retailing activity would help in the locality and would not affect local shopping compared with other areas of the town. Mr Johnstone accepted that the application was speculative although Tesco, Co-op and Safeway had all expressed a degree of interest in the site. The application would not put pressure on the completion of the SDR and the applicants would be prepared to make a contribution to it.

In response to questions from Members, Mr Johnstone confirmed that a local church had approached the developers with a view to the provision of a hall and classrooms which would also be available for general community use. An additional site had also been zoned for community facilities.

Mr A Ingram, speaking on behalf of Holm Community Council, explained that it was their decision to support the recommendation of the Director of Planning and Development to refuse the application on the grounds of its size and that it conflicted with the provisions of the Local Plan. In particular, it was felt that the supermarket proposal was out of scale compared with the size of the local community. At a public meeting held during December, 1999 which had been attended by approximately 120 local people, opinions had been split three ways. Firstly, some people opposed the development outright, others were in favour of the development and still others were in favour of a development of some type. It was felt that many locals were in favour of the application because it would, at least, provide some community facilities which were presently lacking.

The Committee then heard from Mrs M Finlayson, on behalf of the objectors, explain her opposition to the application on the grounds of under provision of drainage facilities. The existing drainage system struggled to cope with present demands and could not cope with the proposed development. The North of Scotland Water Authority (NoSWA) had been contacted by local people because of flooding over recent years at that location. Despite this area forming part of NoSWA’s five-year plan, improvements to the drainage system would not be imminent.

In response, Mr Johnstone advised the Committee that an agreement had been reached between the developers and NoSWA for financial contributions to their proposed improvements for drainage at that location. Further, he advised that the supermarket would require to be of a sufficient size to attract an operator. However, it was not considered too big for the proposals at Ness Side. In addition, there would be other housing developments in the near future which would also take advantage of retail outlets in the vicinity.

In response to queries from Members, Mr D Cotton, Head of Network Planning, confirmed that the proposed roundabout at the junction of Holm Road and Dores Road formed part of Phases 3 and 4 of the SDR. He further advised that an investigation of flooding problems in the Aultnaskiach and Millburn areas of Inverness had been undertaken. One solution to minimise the problems of flooding was to divert some of the flood water into the Holm Burn, immediately adjacent to the site. Although the site was on a flood plain, it was unlikely that the site would be flooded by the River Ness.

Mr Sutherland, on behalf of the applicants, advised that, in relation to landscaping, the applicants were prepared to consider a bond for maintenance at the present moment. Alternatively the applicants’ own staff could be responsible for maintaining the landscaping features.


Mr Hepburn presented the recommendation to refuse the application. The application had presented problems because of its timing in terms of the requirements of the Local Plan. It was the Council’s statutory duty to determine the application in terms of the Local Plan policy unless material considerations indicated otherwise. The retail and traffic impact assessments were generally supportive of the application but they were, however, only indicative. Despite the area not presently having a petrol filling station or a supermarket, the proposals should be considered in the context of the development of the rest of the town. A variety of other supermarket stores had emerged over the recent past and presented substantial choice. Similarly, travel lodge facilities had been approved in Inverness but on major routes. Significantly, no developer had come forward to associate themselves with the development for the retail element and the travel lodge proposal. It was also significant that the Roads and Transport Service could not have recommended approval of the application had there been a housing element, given the likely traffic pressure on the present local road network. Overall, the proposals were peripheral to existing housing areas and premature prior to the completion of the SDR and the construction of future housing areas.

During discussion, differing views were expressed by Members. The view was expressed that the application could not be supported as it was premature to the completion of the SDR. Local people did not feel the need for a travel lodge but would be happy to see a pub/restaurant and a petrol filling station in the locality. Many local individuals and Members were not completely opposed to the proposals but would prefer a smaller scale supermarket and development. Travelling between 1 and 3˝ miles to shops and a petrol filling station was not overly inconvenient. A supermarket of the scale proposed would increase traffic to the area in advance of the SDR being built. Concern was expressed about the possibility of flooding as there were existing drainage problems in the area which could be exacerbated by the proposals. Although NoSWA were working to a five year improvement programme, these difficulties would still take some time to resolve. Members acknowledged that public meetings had been held locally and that local opinion was split three ways. However, it was felt that many people would accept the proposals on the basis that they contained long sought-after community facilities.

Some Members expressed the view that, given the scale of the proposals, the Committee should consider deferring determination of the application for a site visit to be held.

Other Members felt that the terms of the proposals did not conflict with the spirit of the Local Plan and that the application should be approved. The view was expressed that there was no local pub or shopping facilities available in the area after 6pm. The proposed supermarket would only extend to 20,000 square feet; according to the applicants, it would be run by an operator already located in the town and, therefore, would not increase traffic flows to the area. For commercial reasons, it was necessary for a certain size of supermarket to be constructed as a smaller development could result in more journeys being made outside the locality. Members concluded that since no objection had been received from Inverness and District Chamber of Commerce, the proposals were not considered to pose an undue threat to town centre trading. It was expected that construction of Phases 3 and 4 of the SDR would commence during autumn 2000. Given this timescale, if the application were approved it would be unlikely that construction could commence prior to this time and, therefore, could not put undue pressure on the completion of the SDR. Based on these views, it was felt that the proposals were not out of spirit with the Local Plan. Members also recognised that the proposed facilities were of a type which, in other cases, the Committee had actively sought in association with new housing developments.

In response to questions from Members, Mr D Cotton advised that a traffic impact assessment had been conducted very thoroughly and concluded that the proposals, without a residential component, could be supported by the existing road network and could ease traffic problems. The commercial elements would, therefore, not adversely affect the immediate roads in that locality.

After discussion, Mr A S Park, seconded by Mr D Allan moved that the application be deferred for a site visit.

As an amendment, Mr M M Downie, seconded by Mr R Severn, moved that the application be approved, subject to the conclusion of a prior legal agreement for a financial contribution towards the Southern Distributor Road and that powers be remitted to the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and local member to agree planning conditions.

On a vote being taken the AMENDMENT was CARRIED by 18 votes to 9. Accordingly the Committee AGREED (1) to approve an application for outline planning permission by Tulloch Gray Ltd for the construction of a District Centre at Ness-side, Inverness (Ref No. IN/1998/933) subject to the conclusion of a prior legal agreement for a financial contribution towards the Southern Distributor Road and (2) to remit powers to the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Local Member to agree planning conditions.