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Highland Council members approve Scottish Government Place-Based Investment Programme funding for ward projects in Strathpeffer and Aultbea

By Alasdair Fraser

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Highland Council HQ, Inverness.
Highland Council HQ, Inverness.

Two projects within Highland Council's Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh ward are set to benefit in the latest round of a Scottish Government grant funding scheme.

Holyrood's Place-Based Investment Programme (PBIP) gave Highland Council £1,963,000 of ring-fenced money for 2021/22, with area distribution of the grant agreed by members of the economy and infrastructure committee in September last year.

The aim is to ensure that all place-based investments are shaped by the needs and aspirations of local communities and accelerate ambitions for concepts such as place, 20-minute neighbourhoods, town centre action, community-led regeneration and community wealth-building.

The current grant must be contractually committed by 31 March 2022.

Members at today’s Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh area committee agreed to grant £50,560 to Strathpeffer Residents Association (SRA) to assist with costs of a new play park at Ord Terrace.

The cash will go towards stage three of the project, creating a network of safe and secure paths throughout the site.

Members also agreed to grant £8,630,40 to Aultbea Hall Trust towards the £25,500 refurbishment of the vacant Aultbea Hall. In 2018, part of the hall was closed to the public due to concerns about the built fabric. In 2019, it closed completely.

It is estimated that the modest £25,500 investment could extend the life expectancy of the property by another 20 years.

In a separate report to today’s committee, it was agreed to allocate £12,647 from the remaining Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh (WRSL) Place-Based Investment Fund for 2020/21 to two important projects.

It included £6,323 of support for the provision of play equipment in the WRSL ward in consultation with amenities staff and £6,323 to support the provision of public toilets.

Members noted that the next steps in play provision work would include confirmation of any other funding available, identification of play priorities, scale of repairs required or type of equipment to be installed based on the budgets, and consideration of ongoing maintenance associated with any equipment installed.

This will involve the amenities team and communities.

Cllr Ian Cockburn, chairman of the Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh area committee, said: “The availability of good-quality play provision in communities is essential for the physical and mental well-being of children, particularly after such an extended period of lockdown when the ability to play in parks was severely restricted.

“It is considered that this investment will significantly help to offset some of the harms of Covid-19 and increase the health and confidence of children again.”

Members agreed the availability of public toilets was an essential feature of all areas and supported both residents and visitors to an area.

In addition to the council’s own toilets, many toilets are run as part of the Highland Comfort Scheme, where commercial or community sector toilets are made available to the public in return for a grant from Highland Council.

Cllr Cockburn said: “In a widespread, rural area such as the Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh ward, there can be long distances between toilets. Their availability is increasingly important, particularly since the Covid 19 pandemic.

"This funding will be used to support toilet provision across the area.”

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