Work has begun this week on a feasibility study into the major upgrade of Wick High School.
Architects, LDN, from Forres, have been commissioned by The Highland Council to examine three options, which include (a) a new build; (b) refurbishment and partial demolition, new build and (c) refurbishment.
The start of work was revealed by Convener of The Highland Council Councillor Sandy Park, who has assured the people of Caithness of the Council’s commitment to the area in the wake of recent criticism that Caithness does not get its fair share of council resources.
Councillor Park reports that over the past four years the Council has invested or plans to invest £15,774,000 in building projects in Caithness.
More than £1 million has been spent on Wick High School on the refurbishment of science laboratories, an all weather pitch, new windows in the CLASP block and on the special educational needs unit. A further £1 million is earmarked for new dining facilities. Councillor Park paid tribute to the campaign mounted locally to win more extensive improvements to the school and was hopeful these efforts would pay early dividends.
Councillor Bill Fernie, Chairman of the Education Culture and Sport Committee, has also warmly welcomed the commissioning of the feasibility study, which was approved by the Council earlier this year.
At Thurso High, work was under way on the first phase of improvements, estimated to cost £1.2 million.
Halkirk Primary School was to benefit from a new peat biomass boiler at a cost of £260,000 and £130,000 was set aside for the replacement of an air handling unit at Wick Swimming Pool.
The Council had also spent significant sums on upgrading two care homes in Caithness - £320,000 at Bayview House, Thurso, and ££427,000 at Pulteney House, Wick.
The revival of Thurso Town Hall via Caithness Horizons saw the Council contribute £1.8 million towards the £4.2 million cost. Thurso town centre refurbishment was completed earlier this year at a cost of £350,000.
The Council also has plans to create new office accommodation at Market Square in Wick at an estimated cost of £6 million.
Each year the Council invested between £1.5 - £2 million on upgrading its council houses in Caithness.
At Thurso Library, £195,000 was being spent on improving access for those with a disability.
A new footbridge bridge at the Mall, Thurso, would be opened in early October.
Further spending was planned at Victoria Walk, Thurso, to create a new coastal path and a renewed bid was being made for Scottish Government funding for Wick town centre environmental improvements.
Councillor Park said: “I am always disappointed when I hear criticism that is unfairly laid at the Council’s door. I can assure the people of Caithness that their councillors work really hard to promote projects that should attract funds and believe me they do pretty well.”
The Convener, who regularly attends meetings of the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership as its chairman, added: “This Council is committed to the regeneration of Caithness, along with North Sutherland, in the wake of the rundown of Dounreay and is a key player in this important process. From my regular visits to Caithness, I am aware of all the exciting projects planned for the area.
“I was particularly pleased to learn of the £14 million which has been attracted by North Highland College UHI to create new state-of-the-art training and research facility at the Thurso campus. This will strengthen Caithness’s bid to become the hub of the global marine energy industry. I am confident this will lead to long-term benefits for jobs and economic spin-offs.”