COUNCILLORS are set to give the green light to controversial plans by theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s to transform the harbour area of his Highland hideaway.
Last year the entertainment mogul was accused of “destroying” the west coast village of Mallaig when proposals for the £750,000 waterfront redevelopment in the village were first unveiled.
But in December more than 100 local residents unanimously backed the revitalisation plans at a public meeting in Mallaig. The event was organised amid fears that Sir Cameron could pull out of the project after revealing that he was “deeply hurt” by claims that his plans would “wreck” the village.
Sir Cameron, the impresario responsible for hit shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Les Miserables, plans to build new marina facilities in the style of an ancient Crannog lochside building at the harbour.
The new marina facilities, which will incorporate a retail unit and two residential units, are designed to complement the recently completed marina in the village’s East Bay. A quarter of the proposed Crannog building will overlay the footprint of the former village hall which will have to be demolished to pave the way for the scheme. The waterfront redevelopment also involves the construction of new 40 metre jetty.
Highland Council received letters of objection from nine households and a petition signed by 17 individuals, raising concerns about a loss of parking, loss of views, increased congestion and “added competition for existing cafes and restaurants which struggle to survive financially.”
But Allan Todd, the area planning manager, is recommending that the scheme be approved at next Tuesday’s meeting of the South area planning committee of highland Council.
He states: “The facility would provide facilities for persons using the marina, a retail unit and facilities to the visiting public and local people, plus two small flats. The development would replace the former village hall building which is an unsightly building with a poor quality extension.
“The development would be close to the centre of the village where it would be expected to find a mix of commercial as well as residential uses. The former use as a village hall could legitimately continue at the premises and it is considered that the proposed use would be no noisier, and no more likely to attract anti-social behaviour. It is likely that the level of noise and disturbance would be less than a village hall use.
”The potential competition resulting from any new retail or food use of the site is not a material planning consideration.”
Planning officials are recommending that the scheme be approved, subject to the land under the footprint of the buildings being raised to avoid the buildings being at risk of flooding.
Mr Todd states: “Most of the site area is within the one-in-200-year flood risk zone. To be acceptable it was necessary for the applicant to undertake a Flood Risk Assessment and to demonstrate that the building would not be at an unacceptable risk of flooding, it would not increase the risk of flooding elsewhere, and the proposed uses would be appropriate given the waterside location.
“There was a significant flood in Mallaig in 2005 when a flood level of 6.15m was recorded at the more exposed site of Mallaig police station. During that event waves lapped the end of the fish pier, which is in a more sheltered position than the police station. The proposed development is in one of the most sheltered parts of the back of the harbour.”
He adds: “The reduction in the overall footprint of the proposed building as compared with the existing building, and its change from a village hall to a commercial/retail use with residential accommodation at first floor level would be regarded as a lesser risk in flooding terms than the existing building and its previous use.”