Caithness engineering boss loses appeal over £1.6 million fabrication and storage base
Get a digital copy of the Courier and Groat delivered straight to your inbox every week
The boss of a Caithness engineering firm has questioned whether Highland Council is interested in generating employment in the county after his plans for a new base suffered another setback.
Donald Gow, managing director of Lochshell Engineering, said he would be assessing his options after his appeal against the refusal of permission for a £1.6 million fabrication and storage building south of Wick was rejected unanimously by councillors today.
One member of the planning review body called it "a good development but in the wrong place".
Mr Gow responded: "Are they actually wanting work in the county or are they not wanting work?"
The development had been turned down in August as planners deemed the site – on land he owns at Charity Farm – unsuitable for industrial development. The local authority said the proposal was contrary to policy and added that it had been willing to work with the company "to secure a less visually intrusive site".
Mr Gow was unhappy with the way today's online meeting was conducted by the chairman, Councillor Allan Henderson (Caol and Mallaig).
"The chair is meant to be impartial but he was actually steering them to make their decision based on what he told them," said Mr Gow, who also felt the councillors had failed to recognise the potential for local jobs.
"It's absolute nonsense," he said.
Mr Gow has said previously that having a new hub for his business will allow it to expand into marine renewables and could add as many as 20 posts to the existing 17-strong workforce.
He claims he has been unable to secure a site closer to the existing Lochshell workshop north of the town and says locations at Wick Airport Industrial Estate are not suitable.
"To be honest there really is no other site," he said.
Councillor Margaret Paterson (Dingwall and Seaforth) spoke first at today's meeting, saying: “It is a good development but in the wrong place – I am all for jobs, that is a big plus, but you look at the photos and you can see how huge it is.
“I just think it is just too big for that area – I would love to see it go ahead but I don’t think it is the right place.”
Councillor Trish Roberston (Culloden and Ardersier) agreed. She pointed out that the existence of a separate structure underlined the impact that the larger building under appeal would have on the area, and she supported the refusal.
She said: “I have to say I agree with Margaret Paterson.
“I will go with the planner here because the shed that is presently under construction looks absolutely enormous and sticks out in the landscape and the other one that is before us is much, much larger so I really don’t think it is the right place for this – sorry.”
Mr Gow says the building that was erected this summer is for agricultural purposes relating to Charity Farm. He understood this to be within permitted development, but it was the subject of an enforcement notice as it did not have permission.
He has applied for retrospective permission.
Mr Gow said yesterday: "As far as we were concerned it was within permitted development and it was not going to be a problem. We told them three times we were putting up another couple of buildings."
He says he has now spent £15,000 on the planning process with nothing to show for it. He will be going over the matter with his agent.
"I will look at the options," he said, adding: "I'm getting a little bit sick of it."