From gutter cleaning to repurposing derelict buildings – a new agenda for cleaning up Wick town centre
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A community development organisation has set out its aims for sprucing up Wick town centre in its latest newsletter.
Wick Development Trust (WDT) issued the newsletter at the same time as it undertook a spring clean of Bridge Street and High Street by removing severely overgrown weeds from roof guttering.
Top item that the Trust highlights in its bulletin is the sale of the site at 126 High Street where the derelict Sloans building stood. The newsletter stated that the WDT is "pleased to announce it has now been sold to local businessman Callum Reid" who owns the Camps Bar next to the site.
Mr Reid intends to develop the site into an outside space to expand his current business and added: "We are delighted to be the new owners of the site and will be applying for planning permission for a beer garden soon and start tidying the site up".
The WDT says it is "delighted that the site will be used to enhance a local business and will create a social space that we are sure will get well used by the locals and tourists alike".
In relation to the waste ground at 30 High Street where a former cinema and nightclub was demolished, the WDT ran an online community consultation survey to gauge what the people of Wick would like to see happen with it. The results of the survey, which had 1700 responses, showed that the majority wanted to see it "turned into a family attraction".
Jonathan Miller, chairman of WDT, said: "Our intention was to hopefully create a multi-level attraction that had four or possibly five attractions contained within it and the next step is to try to secure funding to enable a feasibility study and business plan to be drawn up.
"If the results come back positive, we will then have to apply for all the permissions required as well as starting the long process of securing the huge amount of funding needed to deliver this project. We are confident that with the support of you all, we will be able to create an amazing family attraction in the town for generations to come."
As we reported last week, the WDT started an early spring clean in the town by clearing out gutters above town centre façades. The clumps of grass and weeds were not only unsightly but can allow damp to enter a building, or can become so heavy that guttering can become loose and be a danger to pedestrians.
"Whilst we understand that this responsibility lies with the building or business owners, we also appreciate that many businesses have struggled during the pandemic, and the expense of cleaning out guttering has been something that most businesses could do without at this time," added Mr Miller.
A shop rating scheme has also been launched for Wick to encourage businesses to maintain their properties to a high standard and window stickers will be awarded.
The Trust recently received a grant from the Caithness Beatrice Community Fund which will enable it to purchase and erect two signs denoting the town centre.
Mr Miller says: "We have felt for some time now that there was nothing to identify the town centre, and tourists – especially those on the NC500 – would have passed through the centre of the town before they even realised.
"We are erecting new signs in an attempt to encourage tourists and visitors to stop and visit the attractions, and spend time in the town's shops, cafés and restaurants. The new signs will be installed at the end of Bridge Street and on High Street."
The mural created by Hannah Cambridge for the hoarding at 30 High Street, was "so well received by the people of Wick" that WDT has
decided to purchase another two – installing one at the harbour and another on the gable end of the new post office on High Street.
"We have had so many people asking if they would be able to buy a smaller version of the map, that we hope to have merchandise available soon for purchase," added Mr Miller.
The Trust has also been working with Highland Council on the redesign of the riverside car park bus stance area and has produced a draft proposal for the site.
Discussed in another Groat article is the proposal to create a special commemorative walk through Wick to highlight the historical significance of the town during World War Two. The plan is to erect 23 educational information panels and a replica Spitfire at Wick airport as part of a Caithness at War walking trail that will also tie in with a similar proposal mooted for Sinclair's Bay.
The WDT is currently looking to recruit "like-minded people that want to make a difference in their town and community" and anyone interested in volunteering as a director should email: email@example.com
Other information on WDT and membership application forms can be found at www.wicksheart.co.uk