BUSINESS leaders from across the Highlands have called for the Highland Council to take a fresh look at the Inner Moray Firth Proposed Local Development Plan. The group has raised concerns about a severe lack of housing provision, essential for the future of local communities and to meet the demand the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport (ICFGF) will create.
The businesses making the call for action include the region’s main home builders and all four major ports, as well as organisations including the Green Freeport, Prosper (formally SCDI) and the Inverness Chamber of Commerce.
It is estimated that the Highlands will need around 2,000 new homes across tenures each year. However, despite the critical requirement, the current iteration of the Local Development Plan falls far short, allowing for only 800 new homes each year. This simply does not account for the homes that will be required as the ICFGF progresses.
Hailed as a ‘beacon of hope’ for the Highlands, the Freeport is set to have a transformational impact on the Highlands over the coming years. It is expected to create more than 10,000 new jobs in the area and a further 6,000 across the UK, as well as attracting over £3 billion of fresh investment.
Investment is being ploughed into ports across the region. This includes a new high voltage cable factory in Nigg, redevelopment plans for Ardersier Port and development plans for the Port of Cromarty Firth which is investing up to £330 million in new infrastructure development as part of the Green Freeport Initiative. In addition, Inverness-based Aurora Energy has announced it has secured investment to expand its network and help support the country’s green energy supply chain and, proposed pump storage schemes in Great Glen are set to bring a further £2 billion in investment and jobs to the region.
To realise ambitions and for initiatives to reach their full potential, it is crucial that local families and workers can put down roots in sustainable communities. However, despite the critical requirement, the current iteration of the Local Development Plan does not allow for much-needed development, potentially curtailing the growth and success of the region.
Innes Smith, Chief Executive of Springfield Properties said: “Springfield has worked across the Highlands for decades and we are passionate about its growth and development. Unfortunately, the proposed Local Development Plan fails to address the emerging opportunities and risks being a critical constraint to economic growth and our collective ambition for the region.
“There is an acknowledged need for energy efficient new homes in the region and this will only become more acute as the Freeport and other developments progress. New homes support and generate employment, help to prevent rent increases, contribute to local services and enhance local authority revenue through council tax. However, if we cannot get ahead of this, it will ultimately impact on investment into the region, as businesses and local people are forced to move elsewhere.
“For these reasons, we are asking the council to do the right thing and look at the plan again. Our elected representatives have a huge opportunity, and we are urging them to seize it.”
Calum MacPherson, Chief Executive of Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, added: “There is a great deal of positive momentum behind us and a strong appetite to realise the transformational benefits we know the region needs. Highland Council support has been pivotal to achieving Green Freeport status and the progress to date. The Freeport has the potential to sustain Highland jobs and communities for generations, but to realise this goal we need to have supporting infrastructure and a key part of this is housing.
“We encourage the creation of high-quality housing of mixed size and tenure that will cater to the demands of people now and into the future.”
The full list of organisations who support the call for action are:
- Albyn Housing Society
- Barratt Homes
- Capstone Construction
- Cromarty Firth Port Authority
- David Wilson Homes
- GEG Capital and Global Energy Group (Port of Nigg)
- Green Freeport
- Haventus (Ardersier Port)
- Highland Housing Alliance
- Inverness Chamber of Commerce
- Kirkwood Homes
- Kirkwood Timber Frame
- Pat Munro Homes
- Port of Inverness
- Prosper (Formerly SCDI)
- Robertson Residential Group
- Scotia Homes
- Springfield Properties PLC
- Tulloch Homes