Golf resort

The Jura is debating a block of 40 beds for golf staff

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A project to build a 40-bed hostel in the main village on the Isle of Jura for staff at the luxury Jura House golf resort on the Ardfin estate was heading to a local audience after 25 people turned up are opposed.

Ardfin Estate, a 12,000-acre estate on the southern tip of the Jura bought by hedge fund manager Greg Coffey in 2010, has requested the construction of ‘essential’ accommodation for 40 permanent and seasonal staff at its five-star hotel stars and its 18-hole golf course.

The Craighouse site, four miles down the Jura single-lane road, would share access with 10 new affordable homes on ‘Otter Brae’, which has just been completed by the West Highland Housing Association (WHHA).

In a design statement submitted to Argyll and Bute Council, Ardfin Architects, GCA Design, explained: ‘At present staff are in temporary accommodation or ‘pods’ on the estate, but this is neither a long to medium term sustainable option for hotel and golf course.

“The site was chosen to locate staff as close as possible to essential local amenity services in Craighouse and to create a residential environment separate and distinct from their working environment.

“The chosen site is within a pre-determined settlement area, adjacent to existing utilities, and offers minimal visual impact compared to alternative sites on the estate closer to Jura House.”

The one-storey and one-and-a-half-storey development is, he adds, “essential to the operation of the Ardfin estate and golf course, and it is expected that the employment generated by the venture will contribute maintain population levels on the island and will provide long-term employment opportunities.” including skills and knowledge.

The expected completion date is April 2023.

Opponents say the plan will increase the island’s population by a ‘fifth’ and increase pressure on its ‘fragile’ infrastructure.

The Jura Community Council said it “welcomes the development and understands the need for residential staff accommodation which supports the tourism industry, but must be sustainable and in line with the needs of the island”.

“Current services and infrastructure such as road capacity, road safety, ferry service, store storage, water and sewer, utilities, emergency and healthcare may be adversely affected due to the magnitude of this development. Most of these services are already stretched beyond capacity.

He also requested a community consultation.

That call was echoed by one islander, who added: ‘Argyll and Bute council should consider that population levels in the Jura may already be at their peak.

“Our single-lane roads are currently in poor condition and increased traffic on them will not only cause more maintenance issues, but will also pose health and safety concerns.

“Council is already aware of our busy and unsuitable ferry, which continues to break down, causing many problems for residents, businesses and visitors.

“Our broadband is poor, we have a limited city water supply and other city services are overloaded. Our after-hours medical service is precarious and policing on the island is “casual” at best.

“If growth occurs before these elements are taken into account, development becomes unsustainable.

“Employment is always an attractive perk and is constantly used as an incentive to ensure developments are approved.

“Staff turnover is high and the development of the estate has so far not provided many examples of the high quality, secure employment expected of a five-star golf resort.”

Another islander wrote: “This app is neither appropriate nor necessary nor sustainable. The proposal would be better located next to the main place of employment of Jura House staff.

A third states: “The Jura is experiencing population growth, but the current infrastructure does not support this growth.

“What is needed are jobs and housing that allow people to put down roots and contribute to the life of the community, not the use of seasonal staff whose presence puts pressure on infrastructure without contribute to the long-term development of the island.”

A fourth said: ‘The people this development will address will not care or understand our community and its aspirations. Why should they? They will only be there for weeks, or even days in some cases.

“Ardfin Estate already has a significant number of homes on the island which have been largely empty for a considerable time. These empty houses must be properly used before more housing is built.

A fifth said: ‘If there is to be any further development of this land, it should be to build additional affordable housing to meet local needs, not a hostel to meet estate needs.’

A sixth said: “I have lived my whole life on the Isle of Jura (44 years) and I cherish it immensely for all it has to offer in terms of wilderness, environment, safety and of loneliness.

‘[My wife] and I have a small family and I wish them to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Jura for themselves and their families in the future. This development in its current form risks eroding everything [we] would like to live in the Jura.

Council planners recommended that councilors approve the plan, but also recommended a public hearing to give all parties a say.

An officer said in a processing report: “The timing of the submission precluded direct notification to neighbors of adjacent properties in a WHHA program that will be directly affected by the proposed development as it will share access.”

The application was due to be considered by the council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee on Wednesday, September 28.