Masterplan for John O’Groats

A masterplan for the re-development of one of Scotland's best known tourist destinations, John O'Groats, is being launched today (Wedneday).

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and consultants GVA Grimley are unveiling a vision of how the five hectares site could be developed.  The masterplan, which has been shaped by the views of residents, businesses, tourists and public agencies, offers various design options.  They all feature the creation of a destination focal point, possibly a sculpture or piece of artwork, drawing 'end to enders' to a main square near the harbour.

The top option also adds a market street and square, with car parking on the periphery.  The consultants highlight the need for good quality building design from locally sourced natural materials and recommend a build sensitive to the landscape and reminiscent of a typical Scottish coastal village.

"This masterplan gives John o'Groats the opportunity to offer visitor facilities which will match its iconic status, a transformation it has long deserved.  It is an important step forward, for the first time there is a plan for the whole site rather than piecemeal development ideas.  The potential of this shared vision will be key in attracting private investors," said Carol Gunn of HIE.

Four development phases have been identified, with phase one described as the 'most critical'. It incorporates the restoration or replacement of the John O'Groats Hotel, a new harbour square, refurbishment of the Last House Museum and the restoration of coastal paths to Duncansby Head and to the John o'Groats Mill.

Additional phases would see the building out of Market Street, additional restoration and renovation of commercial and residential units, the possible relocation of the craft village, creation of more car parking and of a new hotel.

"One of the aims we had in creating this masterplan was to look to the future of the community, but not to lose sight of its past.  We have a masterplan that can allow us to retain a local identity but also respond to the various needs of the community, our visitors and potential investors," said Ms Gunn. 

GVA Grimley's Planning Consultancy Director, Richard Slipper said they had tried to address the key issues across the wide range of interested parties to create a long term plan:  "This has been a healthy challenge for our planners, designers and tourism and energy specialists.  We have focused in on the key requests - to address the core harbour area and on a physical masterplan for a new spatial layout which addresses realistic long-term market and business capacity.

"Many hours of people's time have contributed to a 12 week consultation process and we have been greatly encouraged by the level of enthusiasm from consultees and the many good ideas which have helped to shape the masterplan.

"We are positive about our final proposed masterplan which is shaped to maximise the tourist and visitor experience and to be supported by tourism and business interests; and also to provide for positive local impacts.  Our brief concludes with a suggested phased plan and some initial ideas for implementation.  We are optimistic about the next steps being able to look more closely at the capital costs, land assembly, local authority endorsement and other key moves, to progress the plan onwards."

9 Sep 2009