IT HAS been a hard life for Good Life actress Penelope Keith over the past seven years, as the actress has battled for permission to open a tearoom in a Highland village.
But Ms Keith, who became a household name playing Margot Leadbetter in the 1970s sitcom, now hopes that the tearoom, which has been the subject of a long-running planning dispute, will eventually open next year.
Ms Keith and her husband Rodney Timson will lodge new plans for the restaurant in the Black Isle village of Avoch next week.
They have already been granted planning permission for a tearoom, but have renewed their plans with a more traditional building to fit in with the surroundings of the village High Street.
The plan is to operate the enterprise as a café and delicatessen during the day, while serving more formal meals in the evening.
The couple, who have a home in nearby Fortrose, hope to have their Avoch project operating by spring next year. They already run a café in the village of Rosemarkie.
The latest application shows a building with a traditional appearance in the style of an old Highland cottage.
It will now be a one-storey building, compared to the previous two-story proposal.
The earlier version prompted objections, an appeal and even a police inquiry into a petition drawn up against the scheme after it emerged that a number of signatories were in fact dead.
After last year’s plans were approved by Highland Council, the site had lain dormant, leaving locals puzzling over whether the project’s future.
But yesterday Duncan MacLeman, the building designer and the couple’s agent, said: “We are pretty certain we have met the views of the planners and that the scheme is ready to go ahead.
“I know Penelope and Rodney are both very excited about the prospect of opening up and have been very keen to produce a building that not only blends in with its surroundings but reduces its environmental impact as far as possible.
“The revised application is scheduled to be submitted early next week.
“The building will use construction techniques and materials never employed before in the Highlands, resulting in exceptional thermal performance and there will be extensive use of ‘green’ materials and technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of the building.” The character of Margot Leadbetter in The Good Life, was the posh neighbour of Tom and Barbara Good, a couple – played by Richard Briers and Felicity Kendell – who escaped the rat race to become self-sufficient. The pair converted their garden into a farm, to the concern of their neighbours Margot and Jerry Leadbetter.
Ms Keith also starred in the BBC sitcom To the Manor Born.
• 2005, Penelope Keith and husband Rodney Timson, under their production company called PenCon Productions, purchase a former filling station in Avoch for £79,000.
The couple lodge plans for a tearoom but residents object on the grounds it is an eyesore and the proposal is denied permission by Highland Council and Scottish Executive.
• 2008, renewed plans are lodged, but are again villagers lodge objections. A petition signed by 240 people turns out to be bogus and is investigated by police.
A number of the names on the petition were found to be people who were dead.
It also emerged many of the signatories were in favour of the project, but thought they were signing a petition to keep the local post office open.
• 2011 new plans are again lodged with Highland Council and finally approved.
• 2012 the couple, who own a home in Fortrose, buy an eatery in Rosemarkie. They plan to lodge a redesign of the Avoch project next week.
They hope work could start within ten weeks if the project is again approved, with completion expected by spring 2013.
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