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Torrance dismisses media speculation on Highland Housing Fair

March 27 2008

Speaking to, Highland Housing Alliance’s chief executive Susan Torrance has dismissed recent media speculation as to the future of the Highland Housing Fair.

Coverage in the architectural trade press implied that the Fair was under threat as the Highland Council had been complained against to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman for the steps taken in the initial planning process.

Torrance commented: “The media like a good story about planning problems and corruption. This has been to put a little bit of nervousness among developers… These people haven’t managed to persuade through the democratic process so they’re using the media.”

Labour Councillor John Holden was quoted as saying that the process behind the planning of the Highland Housing Fair was “flawed from the start”, a point which Torrance refutes.

“We’ve done nothing but consult the local community and everybody who has an interest in the fair,” said Torrance. “All we’ve done is be guided by Highland Council planners. The ombudsman investigation, as I understand it, is looking into the steps that were taken before original approval in January 2007 and since then we’ve been consulting to the high heavens – local community council meetings, we’ve held open days to tell people what we’re trying to do.”

Torrance also hinted that the reasons behind the criticism of the plans are linked with resentment from the local community about a previous development in the area that was poorly handled and that the Fair was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” However she is also keen to get the focus back on the real aims of the Fair.

“We’re trying to get people to understand that this Fair is about saying that the Highlands is a place where good architectural design can be encouraged and supported in a way that hasn’t be done in the UK”

A spokesperson for Highland Council, the complained against body, said: “The Council can confirm that it responded fully to the complaint regarding the Highland Housing Fair and last week received a draft confidential report, extending to 30 pages, from the Ombudsman setting out its findings. We have until 10 April to offer comments on the draft. It would not be appropriate to comment further until the final report is published. “

Work on the project is already on site and is due for completion in August 2009.

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