PLANS for a residential training centre in Rhu have been given the green light – despite fears from residents that it could become another ‘party pad’ in the village.

The plans for Duneira, on Pier Road, were given the green light by Argyll and Bute Council on Monday.

Concerns were expressed that the development could lead to problems similar to those encountered elsewhere in the village, at Invergare.

Two weeks ago the Advertiser reported on residents’ complaints over anti-social behaviour, including the singing of sectarian songs, by guests at the 10-bedroom mansion.

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But a council planning officer rebuffed concerns that planning permission would make Duneira another ‘party pad’ – and also addressed fears over traffic and other issues.

Duneira is listed on travel website Airbnb as an “elegant Victorian villa” with facilities including eight bedrooms, a living room, a study, a games room and four bathrooms.

The training facility is set to be used by Touchstone Education, a company delivering courses on financial strategies to clients.

The planning officer said in a report on the case’s handling: “This proposal is for a residential training facility, not a ‘party pad’.

“Environmental health have no objections and the proposal is not considered to be a ‘bad neighbour’ development.

“The use of the property as an Airbnb may require planning permission and may be subject to separate planning enforcement action.”

The Advertiser reported earlier in January that people living in Rhu were concerned at pedestrian safety in Pier Road, where Duneira is located, and where there is no pavement along part of the street.

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But the report on the Duneira application says that “the matters regarding road traffic safety are considered acceptable by the area roads manager”.

The officer also said: “The course is a weekly residential programme catering for 20 residents.

“The applicant has agreed that the majority of these guests will arrive by an organised shuttle bus running to/from the train station.

“This will minimise the number of traffic movements from attendees. The impact upon residential amenity will be neutral.

“Any other matters relating to noise or anti-social behaviour can be controlled by either the police or environmental health.”

Rhu and Shandon Community Council lodged an objection to the application, as did six individual residents.

The community council’s objection, submitted on its behalf by secretary Jean Cook, states: “The applicant says that the residential courses will last for five days.

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“Checking on the Touchstone Education website, all courses referred to are either two days or online.

“The community council, like the planners, can only base their opinion on what the applicant says.

“They will have to consider how much credence they place on the claims made about the control of participants’ means of travel at the five-day residential courses.

“The community council lodges an objection since this area of Rhu is not zoned for business in either the existing or new Local Development Plans.

“Rhu is a conservation area and any development should protect and enhance the character of the area. We suggest that the development of this training centre will not do this.”

The officer added: “This [proposal] will involve ground floor rooms as training areas and upper floors being used as accommodation.

“It is envisaged to have up to 20 people at a time available to undertake training. There is no detail of the type of training as this is not a material planning consideration.

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“In terms of residential amenity there will be no impact upon neighbouring properties as the proposal is currently operating as AirBnB accommodation and is marketed as a complete house for rent.”

Rhu-based architects JMac are representing applicant Paul Smith, and said in a statement: “The proposal will permit groups of up to 20 persons to undertake training.

“There is sufficient space within the existing grounds to accommodate any required parking. All catering would be prepared off site and delivered from local sources.

“Since construction the house, which has eight bedrooms, has been used as a family home but the requirements for family homes of this size are now limited.

“Mr and Mrs Smith wish to expand their training company by utilising the house mainly on the ground floor to provide exclusive small groups with a dedicated training facility.”

Mr Smith, and his wife Aniko, are listed on Touchstone Education’s website as founders of the company.

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