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Wester Ross village's long wait for a hall could be over; Aultbea facility has £850,000 price tag

By Alasdair Fraser

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An artist's impression of how the hall will look.
An artist's impression of how the hall will look.

AULTBEA village’s long wait for a community centre fit for the 21st century could soon be over.

Planners have approved a design proposal for a new low carbon, multi-purpose hall in the heart of the 370-strong Wester Ross community.

The dilapidated but much-loved former village hall, built during World War II as a temporary cinema for stationed troops, was closed in 2018 after becoming too expensive to repair.

Aultbea Regeneration Company (ARC), founded 10 years ago to bring improved infrastructure to the area, can now press ahead with plans to secure the next phase of funding to deliver the project.

The modern, environmentally sensitive structure was given consent under planning officers’ delegated powers. It will be built on vacant land opposite the old hall, near the MacLennan football pitch and Aultbea Children’s Nursery.

The vision is to cater for diverse sporting, community and cultural activities.

ARC project manager Niall Barry plans to start the next phase of detailed design and subcontract tender preparation by mid-March. His target construction start date, with an estimated £850,000 final cost, is autumn this year with a possible completion date next autumn.

The ARC committee will seek substantial donations from the community to raise capital necessary to partially match fund applications to various Scottish community grant and funding bodies.

Gairloch-based Highland councillor Derek MacLeod said: “I’m delighted that proposals for the new hall are going ahead. The community has been waiting for a good number of years to replace the old hall which gave many decades of sterling service. For many years, the community has been without a hall fit for all the activities this will facilitate, so it will be a valuable addition in the heart of the village.”

A community council spokesman said: “This is very good news for our community. There has been a great need for such a facility, especially for sporting activities. The standing arrangement of using the Church of Scotland building on the outskirts of the village, while acceptable for some activities, was in no way suitable for many others.

“It also has poor parking and roadside verges are highly unsuitable. The new hall will redress that and bring our community hub back into the centre of population.

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