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Multi-million pound plans to transform the former BA Club in Fort William into a new state-of-the-art soap production plant and visitor centre are in the pipeline.
The Highland Soap Company has submitted plans to build a new factory, visitor centre, shop and cafe, at the former social club on the outskirts of the town, next to the Old Inverlochy Castle.
If plans are approved by Highland Council, the new centre could open as early as May 2020.
The Lochaber-based business, originally started by Emma Parton, now has shops in Fort William, Spean Bridge, Oban and Pitlochry and expanded its operations further by opening a store in St Andrews earlier this year.
However, company director and co-owner alongside Ms Parton, Archie MacDonald, 28, said he wants the new Inverlochy centre to be ‘the cornerstone’ of the Highland Soap Company brand.
‘The objective is to create a visitor experience along the same lines as a distillery,’ he told the Lochaber Times. ‘So we’re going to have tours of the production areas so visitors can see into our workshops and view the process. We’re also going to have a garden with all the herbs that we grow so people can see what we make the products from. And, as part of the visitor experience, people can even try to make the soap themselves.’
With plans still at an early stage, Mr MacDonald refrained from putting an overall projected cost on the whole development.
‘We want the whole thing to be high end and attractive so the whole town can get behind it,’ he continued. ‘We’ve already smartened up the outside and put a lot of work into landscaping to make it look nice.’
Mr MacDonald said that part of the attraction of the site is its proximity to Old Inverlochy Castle.
‘The greatest thing about the BA Club is it’s right beside a 13th-century castle which has to be the most under visited attraction in Lochaber,’ he added.
The site was initially built as a traditional farm steading and was recently used, and redesigned, as The British Aluminium Lochaber Recreation Club. Most recently the building has been the headquarters of outdoor nursery Stramash, which will retain its outdoor facilities on land adjacent to the building and Mr MacDonald is keen to maintain good relations with the nursery.
Developers Galbraith said: ‘The ambition of the Highland Soap Factory is to bring the site and surrounding area back to full use by creating a striking building with clear Highland heritage to tie in with the existing building and surroundings.’