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Work under way at John O’Groats Mill after £3.2m contract award


By Alan Hendry

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Architect Chris Bowes (left), from McGregor Bowes, Mark O'Brien (centre), site manager for O'Brien Construction, and Rognvald Brown, chairman of John O'Groats Mill Trust.
Architect Chris Bowes (left), from McGregor Bowes, Mark O'Brien (centre), site manager for O'Brien Construction, and Rognvald Brown, chairman of John O'Groats Mill Trust.

John O’Groats Mill is on course to become a heritage attraction and community venue by 2025 with work now under way on repairing and extending the category "B" listed complex.

The contract worth just under £3.2 million was awarded to O'Brien Construction and the start of work has been hailed as a huge milestone for John O'Groats Mill Trust. It was formed in 2017 and has been raising funds for the design and development of an ambitious project to bring the historic mill back to life.

Work at the site is expected to continue for 12 months and will be followed by installation of the interior interpretation. The aim is to have the renovated facility up and running and open to all within two years.

The existing building will be repaired to a high conservation standard, retaining and using traditional methods and materials. An extension to the rear will have a reception area and will contain facilities such as toilets and a kitchen in order to keep the alterations to the existing mill to a minimum.

All the mill machinery will be kept in place and will be used to demonstrate the milling process.

The mill trust in partnership with John O'Groats Development Trust previously created a coastal path linking the harbour at John O'Groats with the mill. The end of the path near the mill is now encompassed by the work site boundary, but members of the public are able to walk around the outside of the site fencing to reach the road if through access is needed.

The usual route of the coastal path will be reinstated at the end of the work and most of the route remains unaffected and open.

Donald Chambers, contracts manager for O'Brien Construction, said: "We're delighted to have been awarded the contract and to be working alongside John O'Groats Mill Trust to complete the renovation."

Mill trust chairman Rognvald Brown said: "The project could not have reached this point if it were not for the support and passion of our community for the mill. We are very excited to finally see work starting on site after a fair few years of development work and we're very grateful to the funders that have backed the project."

Earlier this year, the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded almost £1.6 million in funding to the mill trust and it has also received £1.5 million from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

The project also received £300,000 as a share of more than £2 million from the UK government’s Community Ownership Fund.

Other support has come from SSE Renewables, Wolfson Foundation, Dounreay socio-economic funding and Stroupster Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund.

Work has begun on repairing and extending the category 'B' mill complex.
Work has begun on repairing and extending the category 'B' mill complex.

North MSP Maree Todd said recently she was thrilled to see the progress being made on the mill project after visiting the site.

Ms Todd said: “The building is rich with heritage. It was the last water-powered mill to be built in Scotland, with milling operations continuing up until just 20 years ago. I was fascinated to look through various artefacts from the mill’s operational days and to learn how it also served as a gathering space. It’s fitting that on completion the space will once again serve as a hub for the local community, while also contributing culturally and economically to the local area.”


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