WORK to transform historic buildings in Wick’s waterfront into a support base for a cluster of 84 giant wind turbines due to go up off the east Caithness coast is scheduled to start in January.
Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) is ready to submit a planning application for the renovation of two buildings at Harbour Quay which is to base its £10 million venture.
Details of its involvement in the £2.6 billion wind farm were revealed at a public exhibition in Wick.
BOWL originally planned to put up a new building on the Telford jetty to serve as its operations and maintenance base.
But last month they switched their attention to refurbishing the existing two buildings, which they have now acquired.
The work is expected to create 60 construction jobs while the base is expected to require a permanent labour force of 90.
BOWL project liaison manager Noel Cummins said the opportunity to bring the historic buildings back to life was the better option.
“The plan was to utilise the jetty, but we also had the opportunity to look at utilising existing buildings in Wick,” he said.
“We always look at all our options and we found out that these two buildings were available. When we considered as them as a location for our operations base, it all made sense.
“It is a big departure from what we were looking at, but the feedback we have received has been good and we are confident that it will be a positive outcome.
“We are excited about the development and we think it will be beneficial to the building as they have not been used for so long.”
One building will be designated for offshore use which will include a storage area for spare parts along with training, briefing and changing rooms. The other will be converted to offices to serve as the operational base. There will also be car parking within the site to avoid adding pressure to parking in the town.
The listed buildings were part of Thomas Telford’s plans for Pulteneytown in 1807 to accommodate the lucrative herring trade in which Wick became Europe’s busiest port.
Mr Cummins said the renovation work will be sympathetic to the original design and will look to restore the buildings to their former glory.
“There are guidelines which we will have to follow,” he said.
“We have hired an architect who specialises in dealing with listed buildings.
“As a group of buildings, they are listed but individually they have different designations in terms of protection.
“What we will look to do is be sympathetic in their design and bring them back to how they originally looked.”
In addition to its operation and maintenance base, BOWL is looking at using a disused area at the port to act as a berth for the vessel which will shuttle between Wick and the new windfarm, which is due to be up and running in 2019.