Approval for campus proposed for Beechwood in Inverness

Aerial view of Beechwood site (Pic: HIE) The proposed site for the campus is on the outskirts of the city

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The first phase of an education and research campus at Inverness has been given conditional approval by Highland councillors.

The project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) will provide a base for the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

HIE proposes to spend £25m on developing the site at Beechwood.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey planning committee has granted planning permission.

The approval is subject to planning conditions.

Retain talent

Project director Ruaraidh MacNeil said the campus would be one of the most important developments in the Highlands and Islands during the next 30 years.

He said: "We will now get to work developing a world-class campus that brings the region's education, business and community together.

"The campus will give young people a real opportunity to train for high value jobs in the region."

HIE was criticised last year for its planned spending on the campus.

It claimed the project would create jobs, retain talent and generate millions of pounds for the Highlands economy.

But Western Isles council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - said HIE should be investing in fragile areas of the region and not "booming" Inverness.

The Beechwood site is on the eastern fringes of the city.

Bosses at Inverness College have still to make a decision on whether to relocate to the new campus.

A spokesman said: "The college has noted the council's decision on the outline planning permission for Beechwood and welcomes the ongoing clarity it brings.

"We will now of course factor this development into the wider considerations around choosing the future site for our proposed new campus.''

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