The new owner of the former Ardersier fabrication yard has made a second foray into the Highland property market, buying an office complex in the centre of Inverness.
Derbyshire-based CWC group has set up a base in Moray House, on Bank Street, as it explores options for developing the 700-acre site on the Moray Firth.
Gordon Arthur, managing director of the group’s Scottish division, Clowes Developments (Scotland), said the process was still at an early stage, but the company was “in discussions with various people” about the land.
He added the likelihood of previous plans to develop a renewable energy “super hub” being taken forward was limited by the sea access channel being “pretty silted up”.
Family-owned CWC, which specialises in land and property development, was revealed as the buyer of the site, at Whiteness Head, near Nairn, last November, following a £5million deal earlier in the year. It had been put up for sale after former owner, Port of Ardersier, went into administration in November 2015.
Opened in the early 1970s to build steel jackets for North Sea oil platforms the yard, which at its height employed around 4,500 people, closed in 2001 after demand dropped.
Port of Ardersier had hoped to the create the renewables “super hub”, serving the offshore wind sector and employing up to 2,500 people.
Before calling in administrators KPMG, the company had secured full Scottish Government consent to bring the site back into use and gained planning permission in principle from Highland Council to build offshore wind farms there.
The land includes 340 acres suitable for development and a 3,280ft-long harbour, protected by a sand and shingle bank. Planning consent was previously given to build 2,000 houses, a hotel, 500-berth marina and retail and leisure facilities at the site.
CWC acquired the land on July 8 last year and the company lists it as a “mixed use” site in its UK-wide portfolio of 123 properties.
Mr Arthur said: “We are looking at the various options for the site and are in discussions with various people about it.
“There is a lot of land there. What we are doing is looking at what’s what and we will see what evolves from that.”
He said the silting of the channel made it unlikely vessels serving the offshore wind sector, which can have drafts of up to 25m, could access the site.
“The channel is pretty silted up,” he added.
“The question would be asked, what practically can you do to open it up?
“I don’t think Ardersier will ever have a channel that could take vessels of that size.”
CWC has appointed Alex Stewart to lead its operations in the Highlands following the purchase, for an undisclosed sum, of Moray House.
Mr Arthur said the four-story building was a multi-let investment opportunity, which also gave the company a base in the area. He added the group hopes to further develop the potential of the property.
Tenants in the building, on the banks of the River Ness, include The Highlands and Islands and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board, engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald, Hays Specialist Recruitment and solicitors Digby Brown.