Councillor Baxter questions Liberty factory progress

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Liberty British Aluminium have made reassurance that ‘there are no delays’ in their plans to build a 400-worker factory in Fort William after the Lochaber leader for Highland Council expressed concerns over the project’s progress.

During a discussion about the Fort William 2040 masterplan at Highland Council’s Lochaber area committee last Wednesday, chairman Andrew Baxter expressed concerns that construction has still not started on the new factory site in Fort William.

The Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor said: ‘A lot of this masterplan is reliant on Liberty. It was suggested I shouldn’t ask for site visits or anything that would slow down the planning process, which began back in February. We are now in November and I see no evidence of the promises made by that company.’

Andrew Baxter. NO F46 Baxter 01.

However, a representative of Liberty has this week denied there are any delays to the project and said the company is exploring the possibility of expanding its capacity.

The representative said: ‘The bulk of the work to get us ready for factory construction is still progressing but the decision on the final size of the operation that will be built is still under consideration. Discussions are ongoing with motor manufacturers to determine exactly when wheels from Lochaber will be needed and this will also help inform the schedule for the operation.’

The company extended an invitation to councillor Baxter, which he has since accepted, to visit the smelter in the next few weeks for a progress update with the wheels factory.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Baxter also expressed wider doubts over the effect of the FW2040 action plan: ‘While I’m enthusiastic about the workshop I remain sceptical about the delivery of any of this and it could well sit on a shelf for the next 20 years and the next person sitting in my chair will be looking at the same things.’

He added: ‘Much of it is dependent on Transport Scotland who have virtually dismissed this and I’m not convinced Transport Scotland will take a blind bit of notice of this.’

The FW 2040 masterplan, which sets out the 20-plus projects that are expected to be completed within the next 22 years, was drawn up by council planners after a lengthy consultation process conducted over the last year, which included a workshop event attended by 120 people in the Nevis Centre.

Scott Dalgarno, development plans manager for FW 2040, responded to Mr Baxters concerns at the meeting that the masterplan is a ‘tool to be used on a on-going basis’ for developments and will be reviewed annually in conjunction with the Lochaber area committee and the community.