Under the proposed Inner Moray Firth Development Plan, Highlands and Islands Greens have secured the retention of farmland at Ashton farm, East Inverness, at least for the next five years. In contrast to The Highland Council’s Highland–wide Development Plan, which included no designated provision for large-scale open space in the East Inverness (Stratton farm) area, the Council’s Inner Moray Firth Development Plan proposals now provide for retaining some of this East Inverness area (i.e. around Ashton Farm) as agricultural land, at least until – and if – Transport Scotland’s plans for an A96/A9 link-road come to fruition.
“We are delighted that The Highland Council is coming round to our way of thinking,” said Donnie MacLeod, Highlands and Islands Green Party member.
“Retaining the Ashton farm area as agricultural land is a vital step in maintaining a green corridor between Inverness and Nairn.
“But we have a long way to go. Much of East Inverness still remains threatened. Under the Lib-Dem-led Highland Council’s Inner Moray Firth Development Plan proposals, the retention of agricultural land at Ashton Farm would only be a short-term provision, until the SNP Government and Transport Scotland have decided whether to go ahead with their hugely disappointing plans for an A96/A9 link-road, which would run through the heart of this area. The Highland Council’s Plan also proposes designating the wider East Inverness district for longer-term development, allowing the large, currently agricultural area between Smithton/Culloden and the Firth to be concreted over.
“We are similarly concerned by Transport Scotland’s plans for an A96/A9 ‘mad-mile’ link-road. As well as decimating the ‘green space’ around Ashton Farm, there is patently no business case for the scheme. Costs are put at over £30 million, and the road would be used by very little traffic – we understand that only around 15% of traffic on the A96 travels South onto the A9. The views of Audit Scotland on whether the scheme offers value-for-money should be sought before this project moves any further forward.
“Ashton farm should be retained as agricultural land into the long term. The remainder of East Inverness should also be designated as open space, to provide much-needed parkland, sports pitches, children’s playgrounds plus youth cafe, allotments, an arboretum, forest gardens, organic small-holdings, off-road cycling tracks, and skate-boarding circuits.”
In response to The Highlands Council’s consultations on the Highland-Wide Development Plan, and the more recent Inner Moray Firth Development Plan ‘call for sites’, Highlands and Islands Greens called for the East Inverness area, including Ashton farm, to remain as agricultural land, or as open space to be utilised as outlined above.