New town of 5,000 homes a step closer as plans lodged

PLANS for a major new town for up to 10,000 people near Inverness were lodged yesterday, although it could be 40 years before the development is completed.

Developer Moray Estates wants to build the settlement of about 5,000 homes at Tornagrain, between Inverness and Nairn.

The community, which would become one of the largest in the Highlands, would also include more than 100 acres of parks and open spaces, five schools, libraries, churches, healthcare facilities and community halls.

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It is hoped building will start in 2013 and develop over 35 years at a cost of 1.3 billion.

The plan is being overseen by John Stuart, Lord Doune, son of the 20th Earl of Moray. For the design he commissioned Florida-based architect Andres Duany, founder of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU), which promotes traditional, pedestrian-friendly cities.

The CNU has influenced the building of Poundbury, designed for the Prince of Wales near Dorchester.

Andrew Howard, managing director of Moray Estates, said: "We aim to create a very special place, somewhere people want to live and work and which is sustainable in the long term.

"We were impressed from the outset by Andres Duany and his firm, who are leading advocates of a return to traditional town planning and who have moved away from the approach which has led to sprawling suburbs with few facilities."

More than 600 people attended workshops and presentations during consultation and three public exhibitions were held.

However, one critic of the plan, local councillor Roddy Balfour, said the community would be a "conglomeration of buildings" which would face several infrastructure problems.

Mr Balfour, who previously predicted Tornagrain would be a "disaster, economically, socially and geographically", said: "There are so many obstacles for it to overcome, particularly in the present financial climate."

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Tornagrain is one of three new towns planned for land around the A96 between Inverness and Nairn which could provide homes for 30,000 people.

A proposed development at Delnies includes a tourism and heritage centre, five-star hotel, championship golf course, equestrian centre, ecological centre, community woodland and housing.

A 3,000-strong resort at Whiteness on the former McDermott oil platform construction site near Ardersier includes 1,950 homes, a marina, hotel, shops and school.

However, the developments depend on major road improvements, including an upgrade to the A96.

Moray Estates is also involved in a golf and hotel complex at Castle Stuart and the development of an Inverness Airport business park.