PLANS to turn the Northern Times building in Golspie into flats have attracted strong protests from residents and businesses worried about parking loss.
The company and publishers Method Publishing – both owned by Scottish Provincial Press Ltd – are on the move.
The NT is leaving its home of 30 years in Bank Buildings, Main Street, and relocating to another premises in Main Street, formerly occupied by Mowat Print and Design.
But an application by the building’s owner Lee-Mac Properties to turn the offices into eight domestic flats on two floors have attracted 15 objections, including from residents, firms and Golspie Gala Association.
Locals have mainly complained about parking problems – that the parking associated with the development is already in use – the potential loss of business to nearby commercial units, congestion and “random and dangerous” parking as a result of the loss of spaces.
There are also fears that eight flats are too many for the available space.
But a report to next Tuesday’s Highland Council’s North Planning Committee recommends approval – subject to conditions.
In her report planning officer Laura Stewart said:”While it can be sympathised that parking will be lost within the immediate local area, the area of land is within the control of the applicant, while the use of it is not prohibited at present, there would be nothing to prevent prohibition of its use as it is within private ownership, the use of the car parking area at present is unauthorised.
“There is alternative parking around the village and the leisure centre has a public car park. It is acknowledged that the leisure centre car park can get busy at the end of the day; however generally, during normal working hours it is relatively quiet.
“In addition to this, when on site, it has been noted that existing parking spaces within other areas of the industrial estate are not necessarily being utilised for their intended purpose with equipment and materials taking up spaces.
“Responsible parking cannot be controlled by the planning authority and it is up to individuals to ensure that they are not parking in a disruptive or unsafe manner.
“Due to the number of flats proposed, developer contributions were sought. Following consultation with the relevant council services, it was clarified that no commuted sum or affordable housing was necessary in this particular instance. It was deemed that contributions would not be sought in respect of green infrastructure, community infrastructure, public art and education. There is however scope for a transportation contribution, the need for a bus shelter on the northbound carriageway has been identified.
“A contribution towards a bus shelter is due in respect of this development and shall be secured by agreement or other appropriate mechanism.”
The report added: “The proposed changes to the building are not considered to detrimentally impact upon the aesthetic qualities and nature of the area, as such the design is supported. A condition will be placed on any permission which secures the re-painting of the whole building in a colour to be agreed in writing by the Planning Authority in order to ensure that the infilled areas match the rest of the building in the interest of visual amenity.
And in recommending approval, Ms Stewart said: “For the avoidance of doubt the developer shall provide 12 car parking spaces including two disabled car parking spaces. All spaces shall be clearly delineated by appropriate road markings. The car parking area shall have a lockable access gate or other security feature as may be agreed in writing by the planning authority, to maintain their use as private parking spaces in perpetuity.”
The ground floor of the property is occupied by the Bank of Scotland.
In a previous accompanying submission to Highland Council, the applicant said it has been actively trying to market the property for an alternative tenant for over a year “but has been unable to source any business requiring this level of commercial administrative space.”
“The existing building will be retained with minimal alteration to the exterior and an upgrade of the interior to ensure higher levels of thermal insulation and increased energy efficiency.