Student hub and flatted design questionable

In dismissing an appeal involving the provision of speculative student accommodation in Inverness a reporter has questioned the need for the development together with the planned design.

The site lay within an area which was judged suitable in policy terms to create a student hub, including accommodation and a union. The appellant proposed to demolish a car park to provide multi-storey student accommodation, shops, food and drink uses and enhancement of the public realm by creating a new square. The company stated that the accommodation would meet the needs of students at the university of the Highlands and Islands which needed 300 bed spaces by 2020 and potentially 500 spaces by 2025. Provision of the different elements would be phased, the council being concerned that this would delay the final creation of the civic spaces between buildings.

In accepting that there was nothing wrong in principle with meeting the need for additional bedspaces on a speculative basis, the reporter also concluded that he could not be certain that the development was essential since the university had scope to meet some of the need on another site. The proposed civic space whilst not matching fully the council’s aspirations in terms of location within the site, would be unwelcoming and dominated by tall buildings relative to its overall size. This would affect its attractiveness and flexibility, he determined, and the prominence of the proposed buildings would be compounded by bulky roof treatments which would adversely affect the local townscape. Consequently, although elements of the scheme accorded with the development plan and it would assist in supporting the vitality and viability of the city centre through regenerating a generally underutilised site, his concern over the adverse impacts were sufficient to withhold consent.

Reporter: David Liddell; Written representations

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