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Nature fund award for Wester Ross project aiming to redevelop 'precious' green area

By Niall Harkiss

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The Glebe area of Gairloch requires extensive regeneration
The Glebe area of Gairloch requires extensive regeneration

A community project in Wester Ross aiming to restore a 'precious' area of outdoor space has received a funding boost from the Highland Nature Restoration Fund.

The fund, established by the Scottish Government and administered by Highland Council, is designed to help support projects that will deliver nature restoration, safeguard wildlife, and tackle the causes of biodiversity loss due to climate change.

Gairloch Area Development, a local community group created to push forward local developments and facilities, have been awarded £13,250 to help them meet their aim of regenerating the Glebe area of Gairloch.

The group plans to redevelop the space with the creation of short walking areas and paths, a fully drained football pitch encircled with a running and walking track for all levels of ability, and a range of multi purpose outdoor facilities.

Douglas Gibson, on behalf of the development group, said: "The Glebe area of Gairloch has been leased for many years from the Church of Scotland as a place for the community to use and to benefit from as a precious green area of ground that would not be built on or given over to private development.

"However, over the last 15 years or so, it has deteriorated badly over much of its area and now suffers from a largely untamed mass of gorse, along with bracken and other obstructive growth.

"Aside from a community football pitch at its top end, the area has become more or less unusable, and the pitch itself badly requires effective drainage to regain what used to be an excellent and playable surface."

"The recent award from the Nature Restoration fund is very welcome indeed, and will serve as a valuable launchpad for the project as a whole. Those involved expect the project to take at least three years for completion, assuming successful funding can be found. For example, the clearance of the gorse and bracken alone will take up to two years to be successfully carried out in order to prevent regrowth."

The award is a first step for the group on their way to meeting an overall funding goal estimated at £200,000.

Mr Gibson continued: "The impact on the Gairloch community as a whole could be significant. This is a large area that has been gradually lost to the community over the years, in a developing community with a wide age range that cannot always easily access the surrounding hills and waters for recreational and health purposes.

"The football pitch has also seen a gradual decline over the years, but an increasing focus in football amongst younger players now means that Gairloch has a vibrant youth football club, with a membership of over 40 youngsters. They are understandably keen to see the project develop, and have the area they use properly drained."

MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Maree Todd welcomed the funding news.

She said: "I’m delighted to hear that Gairloch Area Development has been allocated funding via the Nature Restoration Fund to redevelop the Glebe area at Gairloch.

“Behind this fund is the core aim of improving the health and wellbeing of local communities. This is well reflected throughout the plans for the Glebe area which include bringing the football pitch back into community use and encircling a walking and running track to cater to people of all ages and abilities. As an advocate for inclusive outdoor activity, I’m absolutely thrilled to see such a deserving project in my constituency secure funding.

“Well done to all involved in - I can’t wait to see the project come to fruition.”

More information and regular updates on the group's progress can be found on their Facebook page at facebook.com/Gairlochareadevelopmentltd

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