Page last updated at 06:43 GMT, Thursday, 16 April 2009 07:43 UK

War zone to 3.1bn planning strip

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Still from 1964 BBC documentary, Culloden
The government army, here reconstructed for the 1964 BBC documentary, Culloden, were camped at Nairn

Open moor over which rival armies marched and fought 263 years ago is today the focus of a £3.1bn masterplan.

The strip of several hundreds of acres between Inverness and Nairn flanked by the Moray Firth and the B9006 is known to developers as the A96 Corridor.

Over the next 30 to 35 years, there is a proposal to construct 16,500 new homes for 30,000 people.

The total development costs are expected to run to billions and 20,000 new jobs could be created.

The A96 road - which gives the corridor its name - is earmarked to be upgraded to dual carriageway and a bypass is planned to take traffic around the southern edge of Nairn.

However, more than 90% of the area will not be built over.

The statistics are contained in Highland Council's A96 Corridor Masterplan.

Already in the planning system, are about £500m-worth of projects.

These include a university campus, a new hub for the communities of Culloden and Balloch, schools, a business park for Inverness Airport and about 7,850 homes.

If all goes ahead, it will see some of the most intensive building work ever seen in the area.

Developments planned for the A96 Corridor include the following:

Map of A96 Corridor

1. INVERNESS

A new campus for Inverness College and prospective University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) on the eastern edge of the city.

Government agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) recently said two firms have been appointed to draw up a masterplan for the proposed site.

A business school, research facilities, student residences and regional sports centre of excellence are planned for a 200-acre area at Beechwood.

2. CULLODEN/BALLOCH

A new centre would be created as a focal point for the communities of Culloden, Smithton and Balloch under a proposed £120m project.

Bricks
A new centre is planned for the villages of Culloden and Balloch

Consortium Inverness Estate Limited said the planned centre at Stratton would also be a "hub" for new housing in the area.

Up to 2,000 jobs would be created if the planning application was approved.

The framework was approved by Highland Council in September 2007.

3. CULLODEN MOOR

Limited expansion has been proposed for Culloden Moor, east of Culloden Battlefield.

A key area of the field of conflict lying below the B9006, is protected by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

Culloden Battlefield visitor centre
The new Culloden Battlefield centre opened in December 2007

The Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746 was the last to be fought on British soil.

A new Culloden Battlefield visitor centre and exhibition was opened in December 2007.

NTS spent £9.5m constructing and fitting out the building and restoring the battlefield.

In February, the trust said the site had 140,000 visitors since opening to the public.

4. TORNAGRAIN

Plans for a new town near Inverness include schools, 4,730 homes, shops, cafes, pubs and parkland.

An artist's impression of properties planned for Tornagrain
An artist's impression of properties planned for Tornagrain

Moray Estates appointed US planning consultant Andres Duany and his company DPZ to guide the design of the town.

A planning application has been submitted to Highland Council and, if approved, construction work could begin in 2013.

5. INVERNESS AIRPORT BUSINESS PARK

A partnership launched in 2005, Inverness Airport Business Park is looking at developing a site that extends to around 617 acres of land next to the airport.

Golf clubhouse
Finishing touches are being made to Castle Stuart Golf Course clubhouse

An outline planning application was submitted for the entire development in February 2008.

This proposes 213,000 sqm for business use, 72,000 sqm for general industry, 24,000 sqm of storage and distribution, 25,000 sqm designated for a hotel and conference centre and 11,000 sqm of associated services such as a crèche, shops and a cafe.

Nearby, the finishing touches are being made to a championship golf course with an art deco style club house.

Castle Stuart Golf Course is due to officially open in July.

6. WHITENESS

The site is a former North Sea oil platform construction yard near Ardersier.

Bought by Whiteness Property Company, it has since been cleared of its industrial facilities.

Oil platform
Whiteness has links with the oil and gas industry

Situated on the shores of the Moray Firth, 2,000 homes along with recreation, leisure and fitness facilities are planned.

A marina for yachts and other craft would also be built.

The site's life as a construction yard ended in 2002 when owners J Ray McDermott closed it down following almost 30 years of activity.

At its height, there were more than 3,000 workers employed there.

7. NAIRN

Two major projects are planned for the western side of Nairn.

Deveron Highland proposes to build 550 homes at Sandown on land previously owned by Highland Council.

Bandstand at Nairn
Nairn on the Moray Firth was a Victorian spa resort

The company - an arm of Huntly-based Deveron Homes - and partner Servite Housing Association said it would press ahead with the £100m scheme in the face of a slowdown in the housing market.

Dundee-based Servite will help provide 138 affordable homes as part of the development.

Separate plans for a hotel, a golf course of championship standard and up to 300 houses have been submitted as an outline planning application.

The £70m proposals for Delnies, Nairn, have been put forward by Angelika Cawdor, the Dowager Countess of Cawdor, and her stepson Lord Colin Cawdor.

The application has been lodged with Highland Council for consideration.

If given the go-ahead by councillors, work on the development could start in early 2010.

Just to the south of Nairn - a former Victorian spa resort - a bypass has been proposed.

But construction on a grand scale is nothing new to the area.

Three hundred yards from Culloden Battlefield are the Clava Cairns.

The group of prehistoric burial cairns were built about 4,000 years ago.

The Bronze Age cemetery complex includes passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairn, standing stones in a beautiful setting and the remains of a chapel of unknown date.

Fort George at Ardersier - Britain's mightiest artillery fortification - was built in the wake of the Jacobites' defeat at Culloden.

It was completed in 1769 with barracks to accommodate 1,600 soldiers. In today's terms, Fort George cost £1bn to build.

Nearly 130 years later, in 1898, Nairn Viaduct was opened.

Designed by Highland railway engineer Murdoch Paterson, the 28 span masonry railway viaduct is the longest in Scotland an built on a curve.

The landscape is also dotted with castles - Dalcross, Stuart, Kilravock - farms, crofts, villages - that appeared before and since 1746.



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