Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

Brochure 'exaggerated' facilities

Post box at Milton of Leys
A brochure promoting the area's "facilities", including a church hall and a public house, was distributed to MSPs

An area whose only amenity is a post box has been billed as a thriving Highland community in a brochure aimed at securing cash for a housing project.

Organisers of the Highland Housing Fair have been accused of "talking up" the facilities at Milton of Leys, near Inverness, to secure cash from MSPs.

A pamphlet for the event in nearby Balvonie Braes appears to say the area has shops, a pub and a school.

The people behind the brochure said it was meant to show the area's potential.

But local residents said the brochure was misleading.

Eco-homes

The housing fair is due to showcase more than 50 designs for eco-homes.

There are to be built on the Balvonie site and later sold.

The event had been due to be held in August but has been postponed until 2010 due to the economic climate.

A brochure showcasing the event was displayed at the Scottish Parliament last week in a move to raise 4.75m of public money to help potential developers concerned about the downturn in the housing market.

Barrie Haycock, a local resident and chairman of Planning Watch UK, said the organisers had made an outrageous mistake in the brochure.

He was sent the document in the post and noticed the error as he flicked through the pages.

The only facility at Milton of Leys is a single post box
Barrie Haycock
Mr Haycock said: "The recorded information in the document appears to be a complete and utter fabrication.

"The only facility at Milton of Leys is a single post box and perhaps it would be fair to say that there are a couple of pieces of play equipment, that is the top and bottom of it.

"No primary school, no church hall, no local shops or public house, no surgery and day care facilities and no playing field - so how Highland Council can justify their quest for financial support for the venture is just beyond belief."

Fiona Porteous from the Highland Housing Alliance, the co-ordinator of the Highland Housing Fair, said the aim of the publication had been to highlight the current and future benefits of the Balvonie Braes area as the location for the fair.

She added it had never been their intention to overstate what community facilities were available locally at the moment.

A series of complaints about how Highland Council has handled the housing project were rejected by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) in April 2008.

Two members of the public raised concerns with the SPSO about how outline planning was dealt with. They said there had been inadequate consultation and permission for the site should not have been granted.

The SPSO declined to uphold 11 complaints and concerns about the council's handling of the application.

However, the project still faces scrutiny over the use of public money.

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