The controversial proposal to build a new prison on the edge of an Inverness suburb will be allowed to proceed without a detailed study of its impact on the local environment.
Highland Council ruled that the Scottish Prison Service do not need to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for their preferred site at Milton of Leys.
The decision has been branded “irresponsible” by a local councillor who is now seeking a meeting with a senior manager at the council to gain an explanation
Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans said the decision was “very generous” to the developer.
He is to meet with the council’s director of development and infrastructure Stuart Black to discuss his concerns about the decision next week, saying that he felt it it did match with the authority’s development plan for the area.
He added: “It would seem to be prudent to ask the developer to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and irresponsible not to.”
A screening assessment carried out on behalf of the prison service by Environmental Resources Management found that the site is “unlikely to support protected or notable species”.
The assessment also found there would be a change in character from what is currently agricultural land – though this would be “limited” by the local topography and existing development.
A spokeswoman for the council said that to qualify as needing an EIA the proposal had to meet or exceed certain “thresholds”, including scale, potential for pollution and the extent of its impact.
The spokeswoman added: “In coming to its decision the council gave due consideration to these matters and concluded that the proposal was not EIA development since the likely impacts were not regarded as significant.
“Any future planning application will still require a number of other supporting studies and assessments.”
The prison service is hoping to build the new purpose-built facility to replace the aging Porterfield facility in the Crown area which has been hampered by overcrowding and a lack of facilities.
The latest developments come as local group Highlands Against the Proposed Prison Location began fundraising to pay for legal and specialist technical advice in support of their campaign.
The group are hoping to raise £5,000.