Covid Recovery Funding Boost for North Highland Communities

Pictured: Wick Paths Group carrying out work on the Wick North Head Path along the northern shore of Wick Bay.

Thirty communities across the North Highlands have now been awarded grants totalling more than £19,000 from the Community Infrastructure Support Programme (CISP).

Established by North Highland Initiative (NHI) and Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) in 2020, CISP is continuing to award grants of up to £1,000 to community groups and businesses in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross & Cromarty to improve community infrastructure and help the region recover from the devastating effects of the Covid pandemic.

The grant scheme is providing financial support to local people, community groups and businesses to develop sustainable public infrastructure in all parts of the North Highlands.

A key focus of the scheme is supporting Initiatives that can demonstrate a focus on the development of sustainable and ‘green’ infrastructure in the region.

Funding is already addressing priorities such as footpath restoration, litter and waste capacity, environmental improvements, public toilets, motorhome waste, creation of designated visitor parking areas, more effective signage and public information boards for visitors.

CISP grants are accessible to community groups that have been unable to receive other Government support packages and those ineligible for emergency funding.

Successful CISP grant applications will fall into NHI’s primary areas of activity; including food and farming, tourism and community support and leadership.

The Wick Paths Group was recently awarded a full £1,000 grant from CISP to help restore and enhance the Wick North Head Path along the northern shore of Wick Bay.

The path is part of the popular John O’Groats Trail, attracting local walkers from Wick, as well as visitors from across Scotland and the rest of the UK, and beyond.

Thanks to the CISP grant award, work is already underway to allow increased public accessibility and install a public bench for people to rest and enjoy the views of Wick Bay.

The Wick Paths Group, which is a is a sub-committee of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council, works to improve and maintain existing paths and create new ones in and around Wick; including Braehead, Coastguards Station, Old Man of Wick, North Head, March Road, Old Slipway, General Horne Memorial Cross, Bremner Memorial and the Coghill Bridges.

The group also undertakes several litter picks and completes annual weed control along the various paths in the region.

John Bogle, Secretary for Wick Paths Group, said:

“The Wick Paths Group is very grateful for the support received from the NHI.

“The CISP grant was used to purchase surfacing materials for the path and a bench, which looks out to sea at the North Head.

“The bench will provide a welcome resting place for walkers on the path and offers panoramic views out over Wick Bay.

“It’s a fantastic spot for wildlife watching and observing the comings and goings at Wick Harbour.

“We’ve also attached a plaque on the bench to acknowledge the support from NHI.”

CISP is continuing to invite grant applications over the coming months and will close when all of the funding has been allocated.

David Hughes, Board Member of North Highland Initiative, said:

“We’re delighted to see the positive benefit of our ongoing partnership with DSRL to deliver immediate community infrastructure funding across the North Highlands, especially at a time when the region needs to work together more than ever to recover from the devastating effects of the Covid pandemic.

“We’re now turning our attention to our environment which has never been more important.

“Significant increases in staycation holidays are now being taken by visitors travelling to the North Highlands and this has highlighted areas of infrastructure that need developing to support local communities.

“The CISP funding is now being made available to support local businesses and communities that are investing in sustainable services that will support the local economy and the tourism industry.

“From the maintenance of public footpaths and private eco campsites, to designated waste disposal locations and educational materials for people visiting the area, we’re looking to hear from community groups and businesses making a real difference to community life in their region as we slowly emerge from the pandemic.”

The North Highland Initiative (NHI) was established in 2005 as a direct result of His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay’s involvement in bringing together the farming community, local businesses and the tourism industry to address the challenges facing rural communities in the far north of Scotland.

The NHI also works to build and develop a regional identity for the area.

June Love, Community Relations Manager at Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), added:

“We’re delighted to see this latest round of support continue to benefit groups in our region.

“Investment to make the area stronger for the future is key to our vision of ensuring we attract and retain the right skills to deliver our mission and ensure the area continues to prosper beyond that in the future.”

DSRL is responsible for decommissioning the Dounreay site in Caithness on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

A significant local employer for decades, it is working with community partners to help create sustainable alternative employment in the region beyond its clean-up mission, when highly-skilled jobs at the nuclear facility are expected to reduce.

CISP is unable to support grant applications from statutory organisations, individuals or projects outside the North Highland region.

For more information about the Community Infrastructure Support Programme (CISP), and to apply for funding, please click here.

For more information about the North Highland Initiative, please click here.