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WATCH: Masterplan unveiled to make Highland town more attractive to visitors

By Caroline McMorran

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A MASTERPLAN outlining ideas to turn Brora into a showpiece tourism destination was unveiled at an online presentation last night.

The Vision for Brora blueprint seeks to capitalise on the increasing number of visitors attracted to the north Highlands by tourism route NC500.

Concern has been expressed that tourists are simply driving through Brora and more needs to be done to persuade them not just to stop off but to stay for longer.

Vision for Brora is supported by North Highland Initiative (NHI) - the body behind NC500, with the village seen as a pilot project, spearheading the way for the other 37 communities along the route.

It details five projects which would cost an estimated £960,000 to implement.

Central to the roadmap is an ambitious £650,000 redevelopment of Fascally Park as a visitor centre hub, events venue and play area.

Also proposed is a £200,000 town centre facelift which would see business frontages improved, new “street furniture” and an injection of colour into the streetscape.

It is also suggested that the gateways to the village could be made much more attractive by installing stonework along with sculptures referencing aspects of Brora’s heritage and planting wildflowers (£50,000).

Other plans include providing interpretation panels at Brora harbour (£30,000) and improvements to the village beaches (£30,000).

Speakers at last night’s meeting were North Highland Initiative chairman David Whiteford; NC500 chairman Tom Campbell, David Watson, chairman of Sutherland Community Partnership’s sustainable tourism group and BaDAG chairman Tony Gill.

Work on a Vision for Brora began in 2019 with a steering group formed following a meeting of representatives of community groups. Brora and District Action Group (BaDAG) then led the project.

A community consultation exercise was undertaken to gauge local support and to identify the priorities of local residents who cited improvements to the village centre as top of their wish list.

Funding totalling £18,000 was then secured from North Highland Initiative and Gordonbush Wind Farm community benefit fund to pay for a blueprint charting the way forward. However, progress slowed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a foreword to Vision for Brora, Mr Whiteford said: “NHI believes that the opportunities created by NC500 are there to be grasped by ambitious, enthusiastic communities and the whole point of the Vision for Brora is to articulate the ideas that have come from the community.

“This is not about creating a report which will lie on bookshelves or coffee tables, but one that offers practical, realistic projects that will enhance life in the village, create a sense of place and purpose and encourage visitors to the north Highlands to stop here."

He added: “We at NHI believe that these projects can be delivered by the people of Brora, and NHI is pleased to have played its part so far in bringing the ideas and enthusiasm together into the practical, deliverable Vision for Brora.

“I would commend this study to you and ask that you share it as an example of what is achievable by community groups in the Highlands.”

East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Deirdre Mackay, a Brora resident, is heavily involved in the Vision for Brora.

She said: “This work is about making Brora a must-stop place on NC500 as much as it is about making it better and more attractive to residents.

“There are 37 communities around NC500 and there has been a lot of focus on the north and north-west coasts but less so on the east coast and there is a concern that visitors are simply driving through Brora. It is important that we attract people to stop and spend time here.”

Potential funding sources and a timetable are laid out in the document.

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