Housing, hospital, car parks and weeds all on menu for Fort community councillors

The arch at the Craigs cemetery which once stood as as the entrance way to the old Fort, but now with weeds growing out of its stonework. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F32 Weedy arch 02
The arch at the Craigs cemetery which once stood as as the entrance way to the old Fort, but now with weeds growing out of its stonework. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F32 Weedy arch 02

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The Belford Hospital replacement project, housing in Upper Achintore and car parking were all on the agenda for discussion at the recent July meeting of Fort William, Inverlochy and Torlundy Community Council.

Community councillors and members of the public attending the meeting – which was held virtually – heard that the first newsletter on the Belford project was in the process of being distributed.

This has a wide distribution list throughout Lochaber but all community councillors were urged to forward them on to as many people as possible.

The project team is moving forward with the key function to deliver the initial agreement to the Scottish Government by October and the timeframe is presently on track, the meeting heard.

The meeting also discussed the site visit to the Blar Mhor that took place in June with the architects, who are working with West Highland College UHI on a master plan proposal for the site layout and design.

Also discussed was the Upper Achintore Regeneration Group recent meeting and the planning application for the erection of 27 houses and the plans for the remaining 325 houses planned by Link Housing Association.

Councillors heard that the complexity and huge volume of the documentation was felt to be ‘extremely difficult to comprehend’, and that a large number of concerns had been raised by residents in the area, particularly about potential flooding after completion of the development.

The meeting agreed that the community council should acknowledge the need for, and support the principle of, housing at this location.

However, this is the biggest single development  to take place in Fort William in more than half a century and as a result both the Upper Achintore Regeneration Group and the community council agreed that both groups should object and request that the council’s decision on this project be deferred until the many issues and concerns are addressed.

Also discussed was Forestry Land Scotland’s policy on management of its car parks, especially areas such as North Face and Braveheart car parks and the picnic area site on the A82 alongside Loch Linnhe.

Highland Council staff have advised that they are replacing the traffic calming island on Lundavra Road which was put in to support the 20mph speed limit but is not working as well as it could, so is being replaced with three cushions (sleeping policemen).

A perceived lack of maintenance of green areas, verges and lanes was also discussed with examples given including the trees, weeds and shrubs growing out of the wall and arch at the Craigs and along the lanes in the town leading from the High Street to Middle Street, especially at the library.

The wall along the front of the former St Mary’s school site was described as ‘looking awful’ with ‘half-cut’ grassed areas looking ‘ridiculous’.

The picnic site at Blarmafoldach is unfortunately now no longer maintained by the council, the meeting heard, and it would be better being removed.

The meeting wondered if something could be done by the council to request that shop owners weed and clean up the back of their buildings.

The community council  said it understood that the Covid pandemic has had an impact but it was agreed that other towns in council area are managing, so why not in Fort William.

‘The Town Team is doing a great job but they are volunteers,’ recorded the draft minutes. ‘The Highland Council resources for maintenance in and around Fort William are inadequate. This is after all the largest town in Highland and an important tourist destination.’