FW2040 public event shows a bright future

LOCHABER 2040 left - rght Eric Dawson, Scottish Government, Scott Delgarno, The HIghand Council, Alsitair Nicolson, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Nicole Wallace, The HIghland Council. Picture Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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Fort residents were given a chance to see progress and make suggestions to 20 connected projects adding longevity and value to the town.

The individual projects in FW2040 collectively represent a £500 million investment into the area.

A joint enterprise between the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Highland Council, the update event on September 25 allowed project leads to interact and consult with residents.

Interaction between projects is hoping to reduce costs. Chairman of Highland Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee Councillor Allan Henderson said: ‘The workshops and other interactions through the event created a real buzz which was great to see and feedback has been very positive.

‘FW2040 is all about delivering a shared vision for the future of Fort William and Lochaber and the collaborative approach is about all working together to turn aspirations into reality.’

Alastair Nicolson is HIE’s programme manager for Lochaber and thinks this project could bring thousands more people to the town. He said: ‘Fort William is a town that has been desperate to grow for many years now. Some of the individual projects part of FW2040 were ideas for a long time, but now they have the ability to move forward as part of a collective vision.’

The Scottish Government recognises this project as a great example of their ‘Place Principle’. Chief planner Eric Dawson said: ‘The local community can influence how projects are taken forward and how added value can be generated through joining up projects and investments to achieve more than just the sum of their parts.’

This map shows the location and extent of projects involved.
A great place to live

Hundreds of homes are set to be built in the next few years and there will be new training and job opportunities for local people.

Two phases of housing construction will take place in Blar Mor, next to the new hospital and University for the Highlands and Islands’ centre for science, technology, health and engineering.

The centre will be working closely with the new Belford Hospital and other employers to ensure they get the best trained staff. Business development manager Nigel Patterson said: ‘The construction sector is very vibrant in Highlands and they want to take on apprentices that they don’t lose to Inverness or Glasgow for half the year. These and other courses will have a view to local employment and development.’

The Highland Cinema – due to be completed early 2020 – is hoping to create a hub for entertainment in the town centre.

A connected place

Improvements to main roads and the addition of active travel options are both hoping to ease congestion in the town, while fibre broadband will provide a digital boost.

Alastair Nicolson from HIE said: ‘Transport Scotland confirmed they are progressing the next stage of the STAG, to identify the best solution to deal with the town’s congestion and resilience problem.

‘We should also have all of our main public buildings connected directly to the fibre broadband network – improving connectivity and education provision around the town, and the scope for extensions to serve businesses and domestic properties.’

As part of their active travel masterplan, HITRANS are also consulting on where best to make improvements to walking and cycling routes.

Lochaber Environmental Group are in the process of developing a publicly available electric bike hire scheme to make it easier for all residents to get around without a car.

A place facing water

Loch Linnhe connects all the communities and to date has been under-utilised but will now be put to good use with two marinas, tourism opportunities and haulage links.

The marinas in Corpach and Fort William are looking to increase the benefits from marine tourism with closer links to the canals and ability to receive cruise ships safely and easily.

In an effort to get more trucks off the roads, Ferguson Transport and Boyd Bros will be using the loch to transport bulk cargo where they can.

Most projects are in the initial phases so care is being taken to minimise their environmental impact and this annual event will continue to provide updates.

If you could not make it to the event or have more to say, there is an online questionnaire available until Friday October 18 via www.highland.gov.uk/FW2040 to give your thoughts and find out more about all the projects.