Project manager appointed to help deliver FW2040 vision

Fort Wiliam's 2040 Project Manager, Martin Culbertson. Photograph: Iain Ferguson,

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A project aimed at developing and improving Fort William and the surrounding area has taken a significant step forward this week with the appointment of its first dedicated project manager.

Martin Culbertson will head up the FW2040 Masterplan and Delivery Programme and will co-ordinate its overall delivery, help support and develop individual projects, and ensure the local community are kept fully updated and engaged with the process.

The post is being co-funded by Highland Council and Crown Estate Scotland.

Martin brings a wealth of experience to the post, having worked with Lochaber organisations for many years, delivering EU Leader funded projects.

Alastair Nicolson, HIE area manager for Lochaber Skye and Wester Ross and current chairman of the FW2040 Board, said: ‘Fort William needs to grow at pace to meet the needs of communities and businesses.

‘The masterplan sets out a high-level vision for that growth and how local people want the town to look and feel in the future. Martin’s appointment as project manager will strengthen collaboration among partners and help maximise opportunities to secure additional funding to deliver the masterplan ambitions.’

Multiple organisations are contributing by delivering projects under the FW2040 banner. These include Thomas Telford Corpach Marina, active travel developments, the new Belford Hospital, new housing developments, flood protection works and improved internet connection speeds among others. Over the lifetime of the programme, additional projects will emerge and develop in response to further consultation and new funding opportunities.

Initial priorities have included reviewing progress of current projects and looking to ensure clear and regular communication about the progress and challenges of delivering FW2040. Work is about to take place to update the project website to make it as accessible and user friendly as possible. Key project priorities for the next 12 months will include consideration of short and medium term options for the town centre regeneration and supporting the development of an integrated transport plan for Fort William.

Frazer Coupland, CEO, Lochaber Chamber of Commerce commented, saying: ‘This is a positive step towards realising the ambitions of the FW2040 masterplan and I’m encouraged to see this kind of progress with the programme, working to make Fort William as part of the wider Lochaber landscape a great place to live, work, study and invest.’

Work is also underway to establish a community stakeholders’ group consisting of representatives from local community councils, local elected members, and key community organisations. This group will help to monitor the progress of FW2040, scrutinise individual projects and will ensure good two-way communication between the communities and the Programme Board.

Welcoming Martin Culbertson’s appointment and the creation of the community stakeholders’ group, John Hutchison, chairman pro tem of the Linnhe Community Alliance said: ‘While drafting the Fort William 2040 Vision was an important step, what we really want to see is progress with delivery of these projects.

‘Until now we have had little involvement so we hope that establishing the community stakeholders’ group will give that and lead to some real benefit for the future of this area.’

FW2040 was produced following community consultation in 2018/19 seeking priorities for the future development of the town and surrounding area. Feedback from participants helped to create a vision, masterplan and delivery programme designed to achieve those priorities. This focuses on four key themes, which aim to make Fort William ‘A Great Place to Live’, ‘A Connected Place’, ‘A Place Facing Water’, and ‘A Net Zero Town’.