Fort William 2040 public event hailed a success

Fort William Public Consultation Nov 2022 - Caol Community Centre

Over 150 people braved the elements last Wednesday (2 November 2022) to attend the first public consultation event on the Fort William 2040 Masterplan and Delivery Programme in over two years. Since the plan was first developed in 2018, the intention has been to host a large public consultation and update event annually. However, this wasn’t possible in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

The event, held in Caol Community Centre, saw a wide range of delivery organisations and specific FW2040 projects display information and engage with the public. Two open drop-in sessions, which followed the same format, were held, running from 3-5 pm and 7-9 pm. There were also keynote presentations, from Cllr Angus MacDonald on behalf of Local Elected Members, and Kirsty Davison, Senior Transport Planner with Transport Scotland. These focussed on ideas for the rejuvenation of the town centre and waterfront and explained the background to the forthcoming publication of the 2nd Strategic Transport Projects Review and what this could mean for Fort William.

Stall holders at the event included NHS Highland, Transport Scotland, West Highland College, Highland Council’s Housing Service, Lochaber Environmental Group, Linnhe Leisure, Lochaber Housing Association and High Life Highland. Representatives from the consultancy firm Jacobs, currently working on options for the development of local public transport, were also in attendance. 

The local business and voluntary sectors were represented by Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and Voluntary Action Lochaber. The Lochaber Community Partnership displayed information on a range of community development work ongoing in the area. Caol Regeneration Company and Fort William Marina and Shoreline CIC also featured, as did the Caol & Lochyside Flood Protection Scheme. Representatives of Highland Council’s Community Regeneration Team were also on hand to advise on funding options for local projects. In addition, people were able to speak to representatives of the FW2040 Board and the recently established Community Stakeholders’ Group.

Chair of the Stakeholder Group, Dr Michael Foxley said: “The day turned into a great opportunity for local people to learn more about the individual projects from the organisations and officials directly involved and, most importantly, to be able to question, challenge and constructively criticise their plans. I look forward to reading the results of the two surveys”

FW2040 was produced following community consultation in 2018/19 seeking priorities for the future development of the town and surrounding area. Feedback from participants helped to create a vision, masterplan and delivery programme designed to achieve those priorities. This focuses on four key themes, which aim to make Fort William “A Great Place to Live”, “A Connected Place”, “A Place Facing Water”, and “A Net Zero Town”.

Many organisations who were at the event are contributing to this by delivering projects under the FW2040 banner. The event was designed to update the public on the progress of these and collect suggestions for any new project ideas people may have that would further contribute to the vision. It also sought to gather views on priorities for the future and ask if the overall vision for FW2040 was still what people wanted for their community.

As part of this, attendees were encouraged to fill out two surveys- one asking about specific priorities and suggestions for town centre regeneration and the other looking at wider FW2040 projects and development priorities. For anyone unable to attend the event, these can still be accessed at Caol Community Centre, Fort William Library, Highland Council’s Fort William Service Point, and Kilmallie Hall. The surveys can also be downloaded here. The public have until Friday 11 November to return these, and details of how to do so can be found on the forms.

At the Lochaber Committee held yesterday (Monday 7 November 2022) Members had the opportunity to discuss the event and receive an update on progress with FW2040.

Lochaber Area Committee Chair, Cllr Kate Willis said: “We were delighted with the turn out for the event, and the range of partners who attended and engaged with the public. The report we noted yesterday on FW2040 demonstrates that tangible progress is being made in delivering the vision for the town and surrounding areas. Members will continue to be closely involved and further progress reports will be brought to future area committee meetings.”

HIE Area Manager for Lochaber Skye & Wester Ross and Chair of the FW2040 Board, Alistair Nicholson said: “It was fantastic to see so many people attending and there was a real sense of energy and interest from those present. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank those who hosted a stall, our keynote speakers, and all of the members of the public who attended. Your continuing input to the FW2040 programme is vital as we continue to ensure it reflects your priorities for the development of the area”.

Feedback from the event, and the surveys distributed, will be collated and analysed in the coming weeks, there will be a further report on this to the Lochaber Area Committee next year and the feedback will help to shape the future direction of FW2040.

FW2040 has its own dedicated website where you can keep informed on developments, and it can be accessed here.

8 Nov 2022