Crown Estate cash compromise sees Lochaber still short-changed almost £80k

FW Councillor Ben Thompson 1no JP
Councillor Ben Thompson (Caol and Mallaig) says the deal was the best one available for Lochaber when it came to a division of Crown Estates monies. FW Councillor Ben Thompson 1no JP

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Communities in The Highland Council area are to benefit from Crown Estate funding to be disbursed by the local authority, but a compromise deal still sees Lochaber losing out on nearly £80,000.

Councillors on Friday agreed how more than £3m of Crown Estate money would be distributed across the region.

A total of £3,034,704.78 from net revenues generated from Crown Estate marine assets out to 12 nautical miles, has been allocated to The Highland Council from the Scottish Government.

Members agreed the vast majority of the funding (£2.6m) should be devolved to area committees with a strategic fund of 15 per cent being retained for Highland-wide projects and for bids from individual areas that are over-subscribed, with funding for the administration of the scheme to be a maximum of £100,000.

Also approved was a governance structure for the scheme with details of broad eligibility principles, eligible applicants and geography and rates available.

There will also be administration resource requirements to support communities and members in preparing, administering and managing the fund for the initial tranche of funding available to the council.

The scheme will be advertised and applications sought as soon as practicable to support the economic recovery and the development of projects that support coastal and marine communities throughout Highland.

The council aims to open up a first round of applications before the end of the year. Full details on how to apply will be published and promoted by the council.

Last week the Lochaber Times reported on growing anger in Lochaber after it emerged the area could lose out on a large slice of the available cash as a result of the way distribution was being worked out by council mandarins in Inverness.

But Councillor Ben Thompson, Caol and Mallaig, said that following the number of motions and amendments put up, he believes Lochaber got the best deal available – the second largest distribution of funds direct to Lochaber (£462,000) and the largest central pot that bigger active Lochaber projects, such as Corpach Marina, can now bid in to (£455,000).

‘This is a gain of £89,000 for Lochaber over the original proposal and it provides an opportunity for an even bigger local gain since we have good large projects ready to bid into the central fund,’ he said.

‘It was a real pleasure to work with a large number of fellow Lochaber, Skye and Caithness councillors to get to this outcome.’

But his fellow Lochaber councillor and area committee chairman Andrew Baxter said the area is still losing out.

Mr Baxter had seconded an amendment that would have seen Lochaber receive the full share of £543,000, but saw it defeated by 26-24 votes when up against another amendment.

‘I voted for a compromise to block Inverness getting its own way. That was successful but sadly we still only get £463,000 for Lochaber when we could have got £543,000,’ he commented.

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Councillor Ben Thompson, Caol and Mallaig, says the deal was the best one available for Lochaber when it came to a division of Crown Estate money.

FW Councillor Ben Thompson 1no JP