Retail park bosses are on a collision course with Scottish prison chiefs over plans to build a £66million jail next door to shops in Inverness.
The owners of the Inverness Shopping Park are battling to block the proposed new HMP Highland, lodging a series of objections to the planning application.
The move could deal a major blow to the Scottish Prison Service’s (SPS) bid to finally replace the city’s 115-year-old Porterfield jail.
After previously backing down over controversial plans to build the 200-inmate jail at Milton of Leys, the service turned its attention to a site at the back of the north’s biggest retail park a year ago.
In May, the SPS lodged an application for permission in principle to build the 130,000sq ft prison at the 18-acre plot behind Homebase, at the south-western end of the Inverness Shopping Park.
With a wave-shaped design inspired by the River Ness, the jail would be located just 65 yards from the Vue cinema, and within 115 yards of offices at Stoneyfield Business Park.
The owners of Inverness Shopping Park, the Hercules Unit Trust, had remained tight-lipped about the prospect of the jail being built next door, but have now lodged a formal objection.
They oppose the scheme on the grounds that it would contravene the local development plan, which zoned the plot for “bulky goods retail”, and that planning permission to build more shops at the site remains live.
The objection letter also dismisses claims by the SPS that it would “fit well” with the retail park, insisting that a prison is “not compatible” and would have an “unacceptable impact on the operation of the park, particularly in terms of traffic and drainage considerations”.
It states that the traffic impact assessment lodged with the application is “not robust”, estimating a rise in delays of up to 86% at the Tesco-Eastfield Way roundabout, with “no transport contribution to mitigate the impact”.
Written by the trust’s agents Burnett Planning and Development, the final objection states the application “does not present satisfactory proposals for foul and surface water drainage”.
Despite the concerns, local authority planning officials have already stated that the prison plans were “broadly supported and viewed positively” by the council, although they added that a “number of issues” needed to be resolved.
If approved, the new complex would house prisoners from the Highlands, islands and Moray, and it is hoped that work would start in December next year and be finished by 2020.