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Ross-shire land deal opens exciting opportunities for community after work of Garve and District Development Company on historic hotel site bears fruit

By Alasdair Fraser

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Garve & District Delopment Company chairwoman Sue Tarr and directors Mike Franklin and Heather Green at the site. Picture: Callum Mackay
Garve & District Delopment Company chairwoman Sue Tarr and directors Mike Franklin and Heather Green at the site. Picture: Callum Mackay

A ROSS-SHIRE community is toasting new year success after taking ownership of land formerly belonging to a historic village hotel.

In what could provide a significant boost to Garve and the surrounding area, Garve and District Development Company (G&D) has bought three plots for sale at the closed, but recently sold, Garve Hotel.

The community organisation now hopes to help revitalise the hard-hit local economy by establishing a thriving new community hub.

Before redevelopment plans are finalised, however, there will be a full public consultation to determine what kind of village facility is most favoured.

A pre-planning application to Highland Council, submitted for future guidance, proposes creation of a new sports hall and visitor centre with parking.

The land, situated between the hotel and village hall, cost £275,000, drawn from community benefit funds generated by a wind farm development, supported by Lochluichart Community Trust.

Ross MSP Maree Todd hailed the buyout an empowering moment of opportunity.

“I share the excitement of the community at this pivotal time,” she said.

“It’s really wonderful that Garve and District Development Company have anticipated this opportunity, seized it, and are now in the exciting position of bouncing ideas around on how best to develop it – the possibilities are endless.

“This is community empowerment in action and it’s really excellent to see. With financial support from the wind farm underpinning this venture, it is truly heartening to see the potential here. Lets hope we can replicate this in communities the length and breadth of the Highlands.”

In May 2020, hit heavily by coronavirus lockdown, Hart Hotels Limited dealt local staff and the wider community a devastating blow by announcing permanent closure of the 125-year-old hotel.

It has since been bought by Paymán Club, a provider of luxury serviced apartments, hotels and guesthouses across the UK and Europe.

G&D plans to make contact with the new owners and work closely with them on future development plans.

Chairwoman Sue Tarr, posting on the G&D website, described the community buyout as “exciting” and promised full community engagement going forward.

“Cast your minds back to August 2021, (when) the company, in response to community engagement and in partnership with other community stakeholders, was working hard to acquire land to support your identified priorities,” she said.

“After some very careful negotiations, that land now belongs to you, the G&D community.

“Now comes the even more exciting part, the part where you, residents, businesses and community stakeholders say how you wish to see the land developed. Priorities (were) previously identified, but now comes the challenge of making your ideas reality.”

The Garve Hotel has a long tradition as an inn and was owned by the MacKenzie family – ancestors of Hilary Gordon, postmistress of Garve – for many years until 1966.

With the departure of Hart Hotels, G&D is hopeful of forming a fruitful relationship with the new owners.

“We will, very soon, be making contact with the owners and hope to work closely with them,” the chairwoman said.

“The Paymán Club is an organisation highly dedicated to social, economical and cultural activities on a local scale and committed to the welfare and wellbeing of humankind as a whole.”

Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh councillor Ian Cockburn called it “a very positive first step to get some land back into the community”.

He said: “The hotel’s closure was obviously a blow, and with this land being bought, and the hotel now sold, let’s hope it can give the place a good spur – it does need a boost.”

Kenny Maclean, chairman of Garve and District Community Council, said: “In many months of negotiation, there have been hurdles, and I’m sure there will be more hurdles to come, but this is a major achievement. The future looks bright for Garve and District.”

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