Progress at Highlands and Islands development talks

Scottish Water has advised the Highlands and Islands Conveners’ Group that substantial investment would be made in the region's water and waste water infrastructure to enable as much development as possible to proceed.

As part of an ongoing commitment to help progress development, Scottish Water's chief executive Jon Hargreaves, chair Ronnie Mercer and the company's head of development Alan Thomson met with a delegation from the Highlands and Islands to discuss how Scottish Water intends to play its part fully in helping economic prosperity in the north.

Councillor Alison Magee, Convener of The Highland Council, and Councillor Iain Macleod, Vice-Chairman of Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar's Environmental Services Committee as well as John Rennilson, Director of Planning and Development, The Highland Council, travelled to Scottish Water's Dunfermline headquarters for the meeting to discuss development needs.

Alan Thomson said: "This was a very constructive meeting and we were able to agree a way forward. During the next investment period Scottish Water plans to invest at least £100 million in quality driven projects to further improve the environment and drinking water quality."

Many of these projects will also have capacity for growth built into them. There will also be further substantial investment in projects specifically to enable growth as well as dozens of projects to tackle leakage which will release further capacity within the system.

Said Alan: "We know many other developments are in the pipeline now. I will be spending time next week in Inverness with my development team working closely with The Highland Council to identify where work can be carried out and prioritised quickly to release capacity."

Councillor Magee said: "We welcome Scottish Water's commitment of substantial development in the Highlands and Islands. However, we have already given Scottish Water detailed information about the constraints currently experienced in water and waste water as well as a list of our priorities for investment.

"We await details of how this promised investment will meet our priorities and relieve constraints. We welcome the fact that Scottish Water have agreed to meet with us next week in Inverness to discuss their detailed programme of proposed investment in the Highlands.

"We also discussed constraints in other Highland and Island communities and I will be reporting on the outcome of the meeting to the Highlands and Islands Conveners’ Group later this week."

The Highland Council figures for the last six years show that there have been more than 7,000 new homes built - more than 1000 a year across the Highlands.

Yesterday's meeting was part of a series of communications which have taken place between members of Scottish Water's newly formed Development Response Team and other groups like council officials, housing associations, developers and Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the last few months.

Alan Thomson added: "Clearly there has been substantial development in recent years, but we recognise that further investment is needed to ensure our infrastructure has sufficient capacity to meet the demands of the Highlands and Islands in future."

Since Scottish Water was created in 2002, more than £400 million has been spent across the north, bringing environmental improvements and better quality drinking water for thousands of people. In the Highlands and Islands, Scottish Water has invested an average of more than £2,000 per household, compared to the average across Scotland of £820.



23 Aug 2006