The Highland Council has agreed funding of £100,000 over the next three years to complete a funding package which will expand the marine tourism industry between the west of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. This will see new infrastructure and ancillary harbour services provided at Mallaig and Lochaline and project development work carried out for Kinlochleven, Inverie and the Small Isles.
The total project value, including marketing and infrastructure schemes in the three countries, is 7.4 million euros, attracting 6.2 million euros of grant funding from the EU Interreg IV funding scheme.
The Sail West project will create a marine leisure centre of excellence in the coastal zone and provide employment opportunities as well as rejuvenate coastal communities. The lead partner is Donegal County Council with 23 partners involved in the project including The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Local Members for Wards 12 and 22 have confirmed that they will contribute approximately £30,000 over the next three years from their ward discretionary budgets and the Planning and Development Service will provide £30,000 over a two year period from its existing fisheries budget. The remaining £40,879 will come from the Council’s Capital Discretionary Fund.
Highland Council Leader Michael Foxley welcomed the Resources Committee decision to provide the last brick in the wall funding. He said: “This funding will allow for a very important link to be made connecting the north west coast of Ireland and Northern Ireland to the west coast of Scotland. Successful joint marketing of these areas, including the whole west coast of Lochaber is a key element of the project. Given the decline of the fishing industry, it is essential that we diversify and enable our harbours to attract leisure boats. The marine leisure industry is a growing area of tourism and this is an exciting vision which will bring a swathe of benefits to fragile coastal communities and the entire west coast will become a magnet for the sailing fraternity.”
Proposals for improvements to Mallaig Harbour include the creation of 25 pontoon berths, parking, winter boat storage, toilets and laundry facilities. A further 8 visitor moorings are planned for Lochaline with development work proposed for Kinlochleven Inverie and the Small Isles.
Alison Gainsford, head of business growth with HIE's Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross team, said: "Sail West is a fantastic initiative that will deliver improved facilities, boost visitor figures and raise the profile of a number of communities on the west coast of the Highlands and Islands. By working with partner organisations in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, HIE has been able to support a bid for 6.2m euros of European money towards the 7.4m euro project through the Interreg funding scheme. We are delighted that Highland Councillors have approved this contribution. Their support is vital to delivering the significant benefits this scheme will deliver for the region's marine tourism industry."