Conservation area appraisal and review CAA

This is a Grantown 250 legacy project led by The Grantown Society and supported by the Highland Council, the Community Council, the CNPA VABS and the Grantown Initiative.  It echoes and picks up on the town centre pilot project TCPP (2016) and the Iconic Grantown action plan GAP(2016) as well as such as the Highland Council Backlands Project and the Howie Associates Report.

The Grantown Towards Tomorrow public engagement exhibition and consultation is part of the CAA which  picks up on the TCPP required action for annual town health checks and a conservation area management plan.  The appraisal and exhibition also focus on several issues highlighted in the GAP aiming to illicit further positive suggestions and to provide support for further funding.

The exhibition consultation attracted over 130 visitors and considerable debate within and beyond its confines and a large number of written responses.

Conservation boundary.  There was good discussion and comment on potential inclusion in a conservation area.  The general consensus was to retain the existing boundary around the original feus (the Georgian Rectangle) with possible exclusion of Mossie Road and S W High Street.  Considerable support existed for the inclusion of the peripheral Victorian and Edwardian villas, the buildings of Woodside Terrace and the Primary School though there was opposition to extension from some villa owners on the grounds of additional cost and lack of choice.

Built heritage.   Generally concern was expressed about the sense of neglect particularly in respect of empty buildings and the state of disrepair of some High Street and Castle Road buildings.   Of particular note was the former Strathspey Hotel, Police Station, former fire station (adjacent to the primary school) and Gladstone House.  Gutters, downpipes, upper windows, roofs and extraneous and damaging vegetation on buildings were especially mentioned as well as the less visible traces of subsidence, damp and rot in some buildings.  (Leaking gutters in frosty weather is a serious danger to pedestrians). Whilst greater awareness and community pressure might help a series of significant grants for individual owners are required plus conservation area enforcement.  Some new building in the Conservation Area was heavily criticised.

There was almost unanimous agreement that the town's built heritage is extremely important to the wellbeing and economy of the town.

Public Realm.  The words ‘sad and ‘disgrace' appeared frequently in comments along with high praise for the general features.  The grass in the Square featured largely as both hugely important and not to be lessened though one suggested some paved areas for cafes and seating  and the need for greater connectivity unifying information, signage, plantings and street furniture.  It’s maintenance received very critical comments. Other grassed area came in for similar comment and the area east of the Courthouse could be enhanced with better maintenance, upgrading the fountain, provision of information and the relocation elsewhere of the recycling facilities.  Weeds need to be removed and trees looked after.  The former Burgh yard, areas behind the Legion and sdjacent to the Spey Avenue car park  all have development potential for amenity or parking.  Volunteer teams – East and West Ends, North and South sides might be encouraged. Hedges and railings, surfaces and drainage, signage and litter bins all need attention.  The main concern is the impact on visitors.  Suggestions were made attempting to make wider enjoyment of the Square’s character for tourists and making the town more cyclist and pedestrian friendly.  Possibly external expertise from eg Scotland’s Town Partnership might be harnessed.  Some good examples of shops brightening the High Street already exist in town. The  margin of the High Street car park needs replanting.  Digital Grantown is an aspiration and one enhanced by consultancy on offer to the Grantown society for a tourist app.. based on the Grantown Street Parade.

Again there were hugely positive comments on the value of the various elements of the town's public realm.

The environment.  Grantown is surrounded by woodland which is visible from most areas of town.  There is also a very useful band of open space between the buildings and the woods – parks, golf course, Mossie and show ground.  This is invaluable.  It is suggested more could be made of the immediate environment by linking paths, highlighting entrances, replacing fences by skating pond and along the road from the new bridge. The skating pond needs cleaning and paths repaired.  Volunteers are hard to come by – witness the green gym failure.  

Again the environment was rated very highly as important for wellbeing and the economy.

Significant issues.  The Ian Charles Hospital and Health Centre, the former Strathspey Hotel,  traffic management and parking, the Community Centre, the Railways and additional heritage features all received suggestions. GAP issues generally were picked up on and action sought.  

Several suggested relocating the Health Centre (on which a large amount of money is due to be spent) to the Strath site and the adjacent ground – relocating the garage workshop to an industrial estate site if necessary – and using compulsory purchase powers.  Another set proposed the relocation of the Royal British Legion to the Strath site and making use of that area for eg parking or other amenity purposes.  The Grantown East development is very welcome as will be the Rails to Grantown although both will attract visitors to the margins of the town but not necessarily into the town.  For that significant marketing will be necessary.  A national mountain heritage centre received considerable support – perhaps incorporated into the Community Centre. Or set into the woods.  The Highland Council Backlands Report needs to be revisited and the pressures of parking looked at afresh.  The Telephone exchange would make a great multi-story carpark.

Grantown has innumerable strengths which can be built on – not least its heritage.  A single USP is sought and still proves illusive.

Further comments are being elicited via a survey monkey questionnaire.

Whilst the former library is now vacant and for let, the window space is being used to promote the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection and the idea of a possible permanent national Mountain Centre in Grantown.  At he same time it provides a feature of interest in the town especially for visitors over the festive period.  Anyone wishing to comment on the work or to make a donation to cover the not insignificant costs of mounting the exhibitions please contact info@thegrantownsociety.org