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Initiative At The Edge - South East Caithness
SOUTH EAST CAITHNESS
DEVELOPMENT GROUP - Progress Report 21 March 2006
The Development Group was set up following the area of South East Caithness, which encompasses the community councils of Berriedale and Dunbeath, Latheron, Lybster and Clyth being given Initiative at the Edge status in October 2004.
Communities in South East Caithness are set to benefit from the initiative aimed at tackling the problems which face many rural areas in the Highlands.
Initiative at the Edge (IatE) was launched, by the Scottish Executive, in March 1998 to concentrate attention and effort on tackling the problems faced by the most fragile rural areas of northern Scotland. The operating principle of IatE gives community groups the power to identify their needs, set their own priorities and outline the actions required to develop projects with the assistance of their local partner bodies in the case of South East Caithness - Highland Council, Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise, Crofters Commission, Highland NHS Board, Scottish Natural Heritage and Caithness Voluntary Group.
Having agreed a development plan for the area following consultation through the local community councils, the group appointed Eric Larnach as its local Development Officer in May of last year. Since then considerable progress has been made on a number of projects suggested by the local community.
One of the most important has been the housing survey to identify the individual housing needs of those in the area carried out in conjunction with Community Councils of Berriedale and Dunbeath and Latheron, Lybster and Clyth. The survey has been carried out by the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust and a draft report from the Trust identifying the need for affordable housing particularly in the Lybster and Dunbeath areas was approved by the Development Group at its last meeting. This has now been forwarded to the Caithness Housing Forum for action.
The reinstatement of the Dunbeath community tennis court was an early project raised by the local community. Funding has now been obtained from CASE and Awards for All Scotland to allow the project to be progressed, along with the erection of a new fence between the football pitch and the Portormin Road houses. It is hoped that work on the tennis court will be completed by the end of April.
Consultation has also been arranged with a view to establishing a Youth Club in Dunbeath in conjunction with Highland Council, as a result of which the Youth Club should be up and running by the end of March. The Highland Council’s Education, Culture and Sport department has also agreed to provide financial support for the appointment of a youth leader for Lybster Youth Club. The post will be advertised in the near future. Both groups are to benefit from a Music Medium event and a First Club golf event.
Funding has also been obtained from Awards for All Scotland with the help of the local development officer to upgrade the heating system and provide loft insulation for the Outdoor Bowling Hall in Lybster.
One of the major areas of concern expressed by the community was lack of transport facilities, particularly in the evenings. Several options are being looked at to improve rural links with Wick and to improve transport within the South East Caithness area. The Development Group is investigating the possibility of additional services between Wick and Lybster in the evening, to enable the local community to visit patients in the hospital, shop and work in the new supermarkets and make use of the swimming pool.
A five-seater vehicle will be made available for use through Dunbeath Day Care Centre from mid-April. The project will be administered by Caithness Rural Transport and is supported by CASE and Highland Council.
A project to clear the coastal footpath from Lybster harbour has been successfully completed with work being carried out by the Highland Council Ranger and her volunteers. A project for a footpath to the Brethren Well above Lybster harbour is being investigated.
The Group has also commissioned an option study with support from CASE into the feasibility of the local community acquiring all or part of the Rumster Forest with a view to setting up a small community-owned wind turbine scheme, to marketing woodchip and to developing the recreational possibilities of the forest. It is hoped to discuss the option study at the next meeting of the group. Once the various possibilities have been clearly identified, the group will have full consultation with the local community on what action should be taken.
Iain Gunn, chairman of the Development Group said “it has made tremendous progress in its first year and is anxious to take the maximum opportunity of developing the area for the benefit of the local community during the limited period of its designation as an Initiative at the Edge area. It has been greatly helped by the support and interest of the local agencies.”
The Group is still pulling ideas together and would welcome further views from the local community. Meetings of the Group are open to the public. The next will be held in Lybster Outdoor Bowling Hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday 4th April 2006.