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Highland Coastal Communities Fund to help NC500 infrastructure and John O'Groats Trail development

By John Davidson

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Councillor Trish Robertson congratulated the successful bidders.
Councillor Trish Robertson congratulated the successful bidders.

Cash to help improve the John O'Groats Trail and investment to alleviate some problems associated with tourism pressures on the North Coast 500 are among the projects to benefit from the Highland Coastal Communities Fund.

Highland Council has agreed to provide more than £313,000 of grant support to six community-led projects.

The new fund is designed to support economic regeneration and sustainable development around coastal areas in the region. The fund is derived from revenue generated by Scottish Government Crown Estate marine assets.

There has been an overall allocation to Highland of £3,034,703, which represents two years of allocations from the Scottish Government. The Highland Coastal Communities Fund sub-committee has responsibility for allocating the £355,205.57 ring-fenced for strategic projects/local area top-ups as required.

Among the recipients of the fund is the North Highland Initiative, which has been awarded £30,000 to help deliver a small-scale grant programme for community infrastructure projects in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross and Cromarty.

The grants will focus on projects that support community wellbeing and resilience and aim to alleviate pressures caused by the increased number of “staycations”, specific pressures caused by the NC500, and the impact of Covid on fragile rural communities.

A total of £54,250 has been awarded to the North West Highland Geopark to establish a marine heritage trail along the west coast from Ullapool to Skerray.

The project aims to create a new website providing interactive digital maps and key information on the marine heritage trail; a trail leaflet, learning resources for local schools, three geo-pods providing signage/information points along the trail; and a training programme for local businesses about how to capitalise and help promote sustainable tourism.

The Association of Northern Trails (ANTs) – a charity which acts as the Friends of the John O'Groats Trail – has been successful in a bid for £67,720 to establish a business case which will allow it to apply for major capital funding to improve the trail.

Consultants will be procured to carry out a comprehensive community consultation with all community councils, consult and liaise with landowners regarding agreements/consents, audit of the trail, feasibility study, design concepts, business plan, and equalities impact assessment.

The Highland Food & Drink Club will receive £30,000 to promote local food and drinks produce by hosting “Supper Clubs” which will take place in a range of venues throughout the Highlands. The funding will be used to employ a marketing officer to help establish and promote the Supper Club which will aim to provide an opportunity for businesses to network and showcase local produce, which in turn will support the local economy.

The Moray Firth Coastal Partnership has been awarded £86,784 towards the employment of a marine conservation and engagement co-ordinator. The two-year post will deliver a range of marine conservation and community engagement work including beach clean-ups, community workshops, liaison with businesses and educational work with all primary schools in Highland.

The sixth grant award approved was for £45,000 to Sutherland Outdoor Activities Project towards improvements to cycling and walking trails between Brora and Golspie. The series of works includes the construction of 2km of new all-abilities path sections, maintenance of existing Wildcat Trails and the creation of a skills area for off-road cycling at Rhives.

Cllr Trish Robertson, chair of the fund sub-committee, said: “I congratulate the successful groups for all the work they have done so far. Although each project is very different, they all share the goal of wanting to make a difference and bring benefits to their communities.

"They also all have great potential to bring a very welcome boost to our coastal communities and play a part in the wider economic recovery of the Highlands. I wish them all well as they now move forward with their plans.”

Applications from Broadford & Strath Community Company and Camuscross & Duisdale Initiative were deferred along with feedback from the sub-committee provided.

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