A former club for ex-servicemen in a prime location in the capital of the Highlands is the latest site to be transformed into a boutique hotel – amid a continuing boom for new accommodation for visitors to the city.
Planning officers have approved the conversion of the former British Legion Club on Huntly Street in Inverness to an 18-room hotel.
The green light for the project means that more than 500 new hotel rooms are currently in the works at sites across the city.
These include a 175-room Marriott hotel on Glebe Street across the River Ness, a 210-room Hampton by Hilton hotel next to Farraline Park bus station and the conversion of ‘a former Church Street office building with 76 rooms. Hotel. The River Ness Hotel opened there last week.
New designs for a 162-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel on the Ironworks site in Academy Street were also submitted after previous proposals were rejected by the Highland Council. And plans have also been resubmitted to add 43 new rooms to the Waterside Hotel in Ness Bank.
The new Huntly Street development is being carried out by UK Hospitality Holdings in London.
Ever since the front section of the riverside building was sold five years ago – with the club continuing to operate at the rear of the building – it has remained empty.
This involves creating a landscaped courtyard on the flat roof of an existing single-storey extension at the rear of the building which will be overlooked by some rooms.
The layout of the extension will also be modified to form a breakfast area for the guests.
Three letters of objection were received raising issues such as the additional traffic on Huntly Street and King Street as well as the impact on local guest houses.
In approving the request, the planning officers appreciated that there might be an impact on other guesthouses in terms of competition, but said it was not a material planning consideration. .
Their report said: “This is a downtown building and the proposed use is compatible with the location and involves the re-commissioning of a disused building in the conservation area.
“Bringing people to the city center, especially in the post-Covid era, will support many other businesses and should be encouraged. “
The conditions attached to the building permit include the production of a travel plan including information on how customers will be informed of parking arrangements in the city.
Planning officers also noted that Huntly and King Streets have restrictions in place to deter unwanted parking and loading / unloading outside of designated bays along the route.
Their report states, “It is therefore considered that there are sufficient measures in place to address concerns regarding any perceived increase in parking problems.
“It is recognized that the building’s previous use as a pub and reception hall would have had similar implications for vehicle movements in the area.
“The current proposal is for a hotel, but without a bar or restaurant. Guests will be served breakfast in a breakfast room, but there will be no option to serve other meals.
“It is therefore not considered that the proposed use will bring about a significant change in traffic movements.”
Emmanuel Moine, director of Glen Mhor Hotels in Inverness and chairman of the Inverness Hotel Association, believes the Highland capital’s tourism industry is on the verge of rebounding from the pandemic.
“My personal feeling is that Inverness is going to become a tourism hub in the UK,” he said.
“We see a lot of development in the city center.
“I think the situation in Inverness looks very promising.”
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