Plans to improve path systems in Upper Achintore

Ken Johnston (left) and Mark Linfield explore the 1980’s path which they are hoping to extend. Photograph: Iain Ferguson,

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Working to provide more for the people of their local area, the Upper Achintore Regeneration Group (UARG) wants to connect the whole area to the Cow Hill circular path.

The path is a popular walking and running route, and an enjoyable way to get into town, but there is no real way for those living in the upper Fort William area to access the path.

There is a path that goes some way to connecting it, but it is overgrown and many more in the area need extensive maintenance.

Mark Linfield is the chairman of the regeneration group working to provide residents of Upper Achintore with more local access.

He said: ‘Our group wishes to see new paths in our area and of those we already have we hope to encourage the council to carry out repairs and maintenance.

‘Having a network of paths helps to connect the community and paths promote better physical and mental health for the residents. Hopefully better paths for walking and cycling will lessen our reliance on motor vehicles.

‘The group’s proposed route from Ross Place to the Cow Hill Circular starts with an existing but overgrown and neglected path built in the early 80s, our proposal has been supported in principle by Highland Council’s access officer who has agreed to restore this existing section with his budget in the coming months.’

Paths were built across Upper Achintore in the early 1980s when the closure of the pulp and paper mill led to 1,400 redundancies.

The government sought to address this by setting up the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) to re-employ some of the workforce on local civic and public projects, the most prolific of which was path building.

Initially well used, over the ensuing 40 years the network of footpaths, steps and bridges have fallen into disrepair and disuse due to a lack of maintenance.

The UARG’s proposal is to restore many of these paths and join them together to create a link to the Cow Hill Circular Path.

Tenders are currently going out to contractors for the first part of the path restoration.

Mr Linfield continued: ‘We feel it is best to start at the bottom and restore/build up the hill. This will tie-in with the proposed Link housing development and they will hopefully help complete the path to the Cow Hill Circular.’

The group is encouraging as many residents as possible to support regeneration efforts by joining their Facebook group and coming along to the next meeting in Lundavra Primary School on March 9, at 6.30pm.

Mr Linfield added: ‘We believe the larger the number of residents supporting the group the easier it will be to have Highland Council and other public agencies notice and work with us towards improving our community.’

The group also has other plans in the works, including an upgraded play pitch at Ross Place due to the one at the old Upper Achintore Primary School being removed to make way for 39 new homes.

They are also in the early stages of applying for money for a community hub for the area. They hope locals will engage with the group and Highland Council on the specifics of this development at the next meeting.