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Wick town centre feasibility study contract awarded


By Alan Hendry


The former Original Factory Shop in High Street, Wick.
The former Original Factory Shop in High Street, Wick.

PLANS to revitalise Wick town centre took a step forward this week with the award of a contract to carry out a feasibility study into possible community use of the former Original Factory Shop in High Street.

The one-time Woolworths building, which covers three floors, closed some years ago and has lain empty ever since – becoming a symbol of the downturn in the town centre’s fortunes.

The contract has been awarded by the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council to Alan Jones Associates of Inverness. The feasibility study will look at the potential commercial and/or community use of the premises.

It comes after the success of a trial series of indoor markets held by the community council on four Saturdays in September in the foyer of Caithness House, and ahead of a street design project for the town being delivered by Sustrans Scotland – a charity that aims to create "liveable neighbourhoods" and transform the urban environment with "happier and healthier" spaces.

Community council secretary John Bogle said: “We are delighted to be working with Alan Jones Associates. The consultants are based in Inverness and have a lot of experience of working on similar types of projects throughout the Highlands, including recent business plans for the John O’Groats Mill and Tain's old Picture House.

It is a really exciting time for the town but local folk must take the opportunity to make their voices heard.

"The feasibility study will look at possible sustainable community use of this prominent building in the centre of the town. They will be consulting with the public to find out what folk would like to see the building used for, but importantly they will be taking a pragmatic view and looking at potential funding sources for any new use.

"The potential revitalising of this building, plus the Sustrans work on improving High Street and Market Square, combined with Highland Council’s town centre regeneration efforts, will hopefully see a dramatic transformation of Wick town centre over the next few years. It is a really exciting time for the town but local folk must take the opportunity to make their voices heard."

Mr Bogle added: "We would like to publicly thank Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd for funding this vital piece of work.”

The feasibility study will include a building survey being carried out by Fairhursts, followed by an options appraisal of possible future uses. The options appraisal will be informed by a range of local consultations to assess evidence of needs – either for future business use, community use or a combination of these.

The study will also investigate what use the building might be repurposed for, and how this could be done, and provide indicative capital costs.

As previously reported, Sustrans Scotland will work alongside local Highland councillors on the street design project which will seek to improve the pedestrianised zone of High Street, including Market Square and the two pedestrian crossings on Bridge Street.

Local residents, business and community groups are invited to drop in to the council offices at Caithness House between 2pm and 6pm on Thursday, October 17, to find out more about the project. There will also be refreshments as well as child-friendly activities.

An interactive project website is open until October 23 to allow people to submit comments and ideas.

The comments can also be submitted in writing until October 23 at locations across Wick including Morag’s Café, High Street; Pulteney Centre, Huddart Street; the Co-op store, Angle Park, Thurso Road; and Tesco, North Road.



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