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Caithness projects hailed as 'incredibly exciting' after getting a share of Highland Coastal Communities Fund


By Alan Hendry

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Councillor Nicola Sinclair: 'Taken together these applications show the outstanding work of our local third sector.' Picture: DGS
Councillor Nicola Sinclair: 'Taken together these applications show the outstanding work of our local third sector.' Picture: DGS

A dozen Caithness projects have have been hailed as "incredibly exciting in their ambition and in their contribution to community life" after being awarded more than £300,000 between them.

The allocations under the Highland Coastal Communities Fund (HCCF) were agreed on Thursday by members of Highland Council's Caithness Committee. The successful projects include mental health support services, a community growing initiative, a youth club refurbishment and harbour improvements.

Applications were oversubscribed, with 14 groups and businesses seeking to benefit from the fund which is aimed at helping economic regeneration and sustainable development in coastal areas.

It is derived from revenue generated by Crown Estate marine assets. Each year, local authorities are allocated a proportion of the profits.

Within an overall HCCF allocation to Highland Council of £3,034,703, the Caithness Committee was given £409,652 for distribution within the county.

At Thursday's meeting, members approved £310,847 for 12 projects. They agreed that the remaining sum of more than £98,800 should be invested in moving forward an economic development project that will benefit the county as a whole, with a view to securing match funding.

The chairperson of the Caithness Committee, Councillor Nicola Sinclair, said: “This is the first time in my term so far that elected members have had access to funding with complete local control over how it is spent.

"The result is a suite of applications from the community that are incredibly exciting in their ambition and in their contribution to community life and the expertise being brought to the table.

"From forest walks to coastal paths to mental health support services and harbour improvements, taken together these applications show the outstanding work of our local third sector.

"The remaining funds from this initial two-year allocation now give us the opportunity to secure match funding and accelerate the pace of some of the economic opportunities we see on the horizon. These will benefit the whole county in terms of employment, supply chain development, skills and training, and ultimately form part of our ambition to reverse population decline in Caithness.

"We look forward to taking those discussions forward and reporting back to the public at the next meeting of the Caithness Committee.”

The Caithness projects awarded funding were:

  • Thurso Community Development Trust (socially grown greenhouses and hub – part funding agreed for the Thurso Grows project and for the employment of a part-time greenhouse manager), £67,791
  • Thurso Youth Club (phase one of refurbishment), £40,923
  • Caithness Voluntary Group (Listening Ear mental health crisis support), £39,700
  • John O’Groats Mill Trust (all-abilities trail from the car park at John O'Groats along the coast to the mill), £30,080
  • Brough Bay Association (harbour improvement project), £27,000
  • Keiss Primary School Parent Council (trim trail equipment that can be used by the community outwith school hours), £23,000
  • Dunnet Forestry Trust (community forest projects), £22,436
  • Scrabster Harbour Trust (cruise ship gangway upgrade), £18,700
  • St John’s Episcopal Church Wick (accessible toilet and improved accessibility), £15,000
  • Bridgnorth Ironmongers (new post office in Wick), £9775 on condition of a business plan submitted
  • Caithness Voluntary Group (Here for Caithness, mental health "one-stop-shop" website), £9082
  • Befrienders Highland (expansion in Caithness), £7360

Projects are expected to prioritise economic recovery and community resilience, mitigate the impact of climate change or address the challenges of rural depopulation.

Two projects were declined by the committee on the grounds that "they did not sufficiently demonstrate value for money".


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