Primary and secondary pupils and students from the North Highland College are among the many people that are preparing to set out how they want their towns to be developed in the future, as they prepare to take part in the Wick and Thurso Charrettes. This is the first time in Scotland this format will have been used to input into a local development plan.
At today’s meeting of The Highland Council's Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee, Councillors were given a presentation on how the Wick and Thurso Charrettes, which start next week, will give local communities a very interactive and hands-on role in preparing and shaping a new Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan (CaS Plan). As the two main settlements in the area the Charrettes aim to create a land use strategy for their future.
With special workshop sessions for young people as well as town walk-abouts, presentations and themed workshops anyone can attend, it is hoped that as many people as possible come along and take part.
When the Charrettes were launched last month local landowners were asked to come forward with any potential sites that could be considered for future development. The potential of these, along with existing sites, will be open for discussion during the Charrette workshops.
Area Leader Councillor Deirdre Mackay said. “The question people should be asking themselves is, `What kind of place do I want my community to look like in 5, 10 and 15 years time?’ The purpose of the Charrettes is to provide an intensive period of focused discussions to gather people’s views and aspirations for the future of their towns and the surrounding areas. It is going to be a unique and exciting opportunity to sit down as a group and look at a wide range of themes such as street design, sporting and community facilities, transport, commercial opportunities, housing needs, how green spaces are used and also protecting certain areas from future development.
“The Charrette process is really interactive and a specialist design team will help to draw people’s ideas as they develop, so even if you can only spare a few minutes I think it will be very worthwhile to come along and drop into the sessions in Wick and Thurso.”
The Wick Charrette takes place at the Assembly Rooms and starts on Thursday 21 February with workshops running from 2pm – 8pm. The next sessions will take place on Saturday from 11am – 4pm.
The Thurso Charrette will take place in the Pentland Hotel and starts on Friday from 2pm – 8pm with further workshop sessions running from 11am – 4pm on Saturday.
Refreshments will be provided and people and invited to drop in and stay for as long as they are able to.
The Charrettes are taking place with financial assistance from Scottish Government and a consultancy team led by John Thompson & Partners (JTP) is helping the Council run the events.
Charles Campion from JTP said: “We are looking forward to working with the local communities in Wick and Thurso and helping in the preparation of the new Local Development Plan. Our role is to make sure that many people and varied interests are involved in the process, and that their views are heard and considered. We will also be illustrating the ideas discussed and drawing up new masterplans for each town.”
The aim of the Charrette events will be to prepare whole-town masterplans which will feed directly into the first stage of the CaS Plan. It is hoped that involving local people in this process will create a joined-up approach to planning and delivering development and regeneration, attract new investment and jobs, and bring benefits to these two towns and the wider Caithness and Sutherland area.
Looking forward to the Charrettes starting, Caithness Civic Leader Councillor Gail Ross said: “I am sure the people of Wick and Thurso have lots of creative ideas as to what they would like their towns to look like in the future and importantly what sort of places they will be for people to visit and do business in. As well as looking at challenges, we want to think about the potential and priorities. We are really starting with a blank canvas, so it will be fascinating to see by the end of the Charrettes drawings, designs and layouts reflecting the views of everyone taking part.
“By the end we will have a clear guide for how and where future developments will happen. It really is a chance to influence future development decisions in the area and ensure our communities are best placed to attract new investment, jobs and promote Caithness as a strong and vibrant place to live, work and visit.”