Am­bi­tious gar­den cen­tre plan for Spean Bridge

The Oban Times - - Lochaber Times - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

AM­BI­TIOUS plans for a £2 mil­lion gar­den cen­tre and vis­i­tor at­trac­tion out­side Spean Bridge have been lodged with the Highland Coun­cil.

Sit­u­ated about a mile from Spean Bridge, Achnabobane could wel­come up to 60,000 vis­i­tors next sum­mer if the project is given the green light.

An ap­pli­ca­tion for plan­ning in prin­ci­ple has now been sub­mit­ted to the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

The brain­child of Achnabobane res­i­dent Ross Mac­Gre­gor, the plans would see a pet­ting zoo, gar­den cen­tre and restau­rant built on land sit­u­ated just off the A82.

It is an­tic­i­pated 12 full-time equiv­a­lent year-round jobs would be cre­ated.

Mr Mac­Gre­gor’s ex­ist­ing trout ponds, red deer farm and Christ­mas tree busi­ness would be in­cor­po­rated into the new plans.

The 37-year-old stock­bro­ker from London grew up in the area. Af­ter mov­ing to London for 10 years, he came back to Achnabobane in Jan­uary this year.

Speak­ing to the Lochaber Times, Mr Mac­Gre­gor said he hopes to ful­fill his life-long dream of hav­ing a gar­den and vis­i­tor cen­tre.

‘From a young age I have been around vis­i­tors. My mum used to run a B&B and I would show the vis­i­tors around and point out where Ben Ne­vis was,’ he said.

‘I have al­ways had this dream of see­ing a vis­i­tor at­trac­tion and gar­den cen­tre here.’

Mr Mac­Gre­gor first had the idea in 1999 when he was awarded fund­ing for the deer farm.

‘It is a no brainer to build this here, with moun­tain bik­ing and ski-ing near by.

‘We want to try and use the area, and ev­ery­thing it has to of­fer, to the max­i­mum.’

Achnabobane has trans­formed in the last 30 years. From the orig­i­nal farm house and cot­tage, it now boasts hous­ing.

Mr Mac­Gre­gor con­tin­ued: ‘This farm is a honey pot. Peo­ple want to come and live here and Achnabobane is re­garded as a small vil­lage now. Vis­i­tors come here in droves. There is def­i­nitely de­mand for it.’

Mr Mac­Gre­gor said the project would be split into two phases, with phase one, cost­ing around £2 mil­lion, com­pleted by sum­mer 2018.

He said: ‘Phase one will in­clude a gar­den cen­tre with ponds, a restau­rant, pet­ting zoo and re­tail space. We would hope to have a sec­ond phase where we would build cy­cle tracks and maybe have some ped­a­los for the chil­dren. We would like to make some of it in­doors or shel­tered.’

John Fotheringham, chair­man of Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Ach­nacarry com­mu­nity coun­cil, said coun­cil­lors would have to ex­am­ine ‘all the rel­e­vant poli­cies’ be­fore de­cid­ing on whether to sup­port the plans or not.

He said: ‘We have re­quested an ex­ten­sion from Highland Coun­cil plan­ning un­til af­ter our next meet­ing on Au­gust 1 so we can fully re­search this ap­pli­ca­tion. It would not be fair to the ap­pli­cant or the com­mu­nity at large if we were to take a de­ci­sion with­out a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion.’

Mr Mac­Gre­gor added: ‘ We want to work with the com­mu­nity and plan­ners to hear their opin­ions on this project.’

Pho­to­graph: Iain Fer­gu­son, The Write Im­age. F28 ross mac­gre­gor 01 IF

Ross Mac­Gre­gor feeds An­gus the young bull and calf Char­lie.

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