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Mountaineers object to plans for extension of iconic Highland Inn near Glen Coe

Published: September 29, 2017
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The popular Kings House Hotel, which is located at the head of Glen Coe, is centered around an original 17th century inn that played a part in the subjugation of the Jacobites in the 18th century, when it was used as barracks for Crown forces under the command of the Duke of Cumberland.

The inn became a base for Hanoverian troops who were tasked with
crushing or capturing any surviving Jacobites in the western Highlands.

Over the past few decades it has become popular with climbers and walkers, who along with The John Muir Trust and the National Trust for Scotland have lodged objections to plans for the historic building to receive what has been described as an "industrial" extension.

An artist's illustration of the new design. Picture: Bidwells

The proposalsfor the Hotel, which is a well-known landmark on the West Highland Way, were put forward to the Highland Council last year and the firm behind them were granted permission, however new design plans for the extension have now also been submitted and are waiting for approval.

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The objections were raised by the outdoor and heritage groups after it was pointed out that the new designs did not "respect, enhance or make responsible use" of the natural assets.

Black Corries Estate Management, who own the property, and submitted the proposals for the new extension have since defended the design.

David Gibson, Chief Executive Officer for Mountaineering Scotland, said: “The Kings House Hotel is located in a part of the National Scenic Area which is recognised for its unique and unrivalled natural heritage, but the proposed development appears as an industrial-style building. It is not sympathetic to its surroundings or to the existing historic hotel building.

“Scottish mountaineering, and many of our members, have a long association with the Kings House and we recognise its value as an amenity. We did not object to the original planning application made in 2016 – which was granted by Highland Council – because we felt it was more in keeping with both the original building and the landscape.

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“But this new application is arguably no different to hotel buildings found in large cities and certainly does not ‘respect, enhance or make responsible use of our natural assets’ as required by the National Planning Framework.”

Mr Gibson added that the organisation do not wish to prevent the hotel being redeveloped, adding: “Mountaineering Scotland is not against the appropriate development of the Kings House and would support a well-designed extension as proposed in the 2016 application, but the new proposal is most certainly not well-designed or in keeping with its surroundings and we object to it.”

A spokesperson for Bidwells, the managing agents for the projects said: “We have looked at many options for the redevelopment of the Kings House Hotel. Following a financial review of the previous Planning Application the original design was found to be inefficient, insufficient and uneconomically viable. In order for the development to proceed it must meet the minimum requirements of 60 bedrooms under one roof. The current plans are best suited to deliver a financially viable proposition to our client who, in a philanthropic manner, is investing over £10m in this development.

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“We know how special the Kings House Hotel is to many people and we are very focussed on delivering the best possible business structure to the benefit of the area.”

Bidwells added that the original ‘Kings House’ building, built in 1755, is "to be retained" and that the proposed structure will include "materials comprising slate tile roof; slow grown, untreated Siberian larch clad walls and local drystone granite walls".

They also cited an excerpt from ASH Consulting’s summary which states that the proposed design would be screened from the view of large parts of the surrounding area including the A82, West Highland Way, and Glen Etive road and wouldn't have a significant impact on the landscape.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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