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A new report which predicts a drastic fall in the working age population in Lochaber should ‘act as a warning’, according to a local councillor.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) published a report last week which outlined that the working age population in Lochaber is projected to decline by 19 per cent in the next 20 years, compared with 12 per cent across Highland Council area. The area’s overall population is also projected to decrease by seven per cent.
The report also showed that the number of 65 to 84-year-olds living in Lochaber has increased by 13 per cent since 2016, while the number of people aged 85 or above has increased by 18 per cent.
Lochaber councillor Ben Thompson welcomed the findings of the report but said it should act as a warning that more needs to be done in addressing problems in the area, such as housing.
‘It points out that there’s work to be done. I think Lochaber is the best place in the world to live but moving here and staying here can be really difficult.’
He continued: ‘The report highlights that we need to step up with things like rural affordable housing so people who want to stay in Lochaber can and are not priced out of the market by holiday homes.’
Mr Thompson also said that the projected decline in working age population is a cause for concern, not only for the area’s economy but for the council as well, considering its aging work force.
‘We need to make sure we are selling a good offer when it comes to recruitment,’ he continued. ‘Again, it comes down to not just the job on offer but the lifestyle here as well.’
Significant public and private developments are under way in Lochaber, including the proposed alloy wheel factory, by the GFG Alliance (Liberty), which is expected to create up to 400 jobs and bring many other benefits to the local economy. Other investment include a new hospital in Fort William led by NHS Highland, and West Highland College’s plans to establish a Centre for Science and Technology.
Alastair Nicolson, HIE’s programme manager for the Lochaber, said: ‘Official population projections do not take into consideration any planned investments or new developments in a community. This piece of research was undertaken to help us understand what is likely to happen if some or all of the planned investments in and around Fort William take place in the coming years. The findings tell us that significant population growth is highly likely in the near future.
‘Lochaber is already a fantastic place to live, work and study, and with planned investments in housing, local infrastructure and industry, its appeal to potential new residents will only increase.’