Havoc in Avoch as Good Life star battles over tea room plan

Ms Keith's £79,000 vacant plot in the Highland village has been battled over for six years. Picture: Google Maps

GOOD Life actress Penelope Keith has been involved in a year-long battle with bureaucrats over her plans for a Highland tearoom.

The star, best known for her portrayal of snooty Margo Leadbetter in the 70s sitcom, was finally given planning permission for the tearoom last January.

But there is still no sign of the café opening in the village of Avoch on the Black Isle, despite Ms Keith buying the plot in 2005.

Insiders claim that Highland Council, after trying for six years to stop the project, are putting numerous obstacles in the way.

Ms Keith, 71, wants to build the tearoom on a vacant lot once occupied by a petrol station.

The actress, who is also well known for playing an aristocrat in To the Manor Born, bought the land for £79,000 in 2005.

Insiders are speculating that the delays are being caused the need to include disabled toilets in the design of the building.

The actress has reportedly been told that a land contamination survey must be carried out and submitted to officials before work can begin.

She has also been asked to produce a “landscape report” detailing the plants, trees and hedges she plans to use in the project.

This is apparently required to meet environmental guidelines.

The council is reported to be insisting that the walls of the café are finished with “white/off-white wet dash harl”.

Additionally, a sample of the colour of the timber cladding she plans to use had been requested by the council.

Local SNP councillor Craig Fraser said: “I have always thought it would be a good assett to Avoch.

“There have been ups and downs with the project but from what I understand there is a need to incorporate better disabled facilities, so that may be in the mix.”

Liberal Democrat councillor David Alston said: “I haven’t seen anything happening there. It’s a vacant lot.

Keith declined to comment on the latest moves in the tearoom project but said earlier this year, at the launch of a ferry in the Highlands, “things take a long time to happen”.

She and her husband, Rodney Timson, were originally denied planning permission in 2007 after residents claimed the tearoom would be an eyesore and cause parking chaos.

The village’s population is just 500 but opponents of the scheme collected 241 signatures for a petition. Police investigated after it emerged some of the signatories were deceased.

Planning permission was again refused in 2008 because the proposed building was said to be detrimental to the area.

No-one was available for comment from Highland Council.