Weekly update, 17th August

Energy & Business Services

I was grateful for the chance to meet this week with members of Wick Harbour Authority board and Cavendish Nuclear secondee Shona Kirk to review schedules and progress with the development project that sits on the CNSRP Programme. WHA Chairman Willie Watt confirmed the Board’s gratitude for recent support awarded by DSRL to enable further work to be done on plans for a High Water Protection Gate at Wick harbour.

Tourism, Food & Drink

Scrabster harbour last weekend welcomed its penultimate ship of the season with the arrival on Saturday 15th of the “Adonia”, which was en route to Lerwick in Shetland.

Good to hear from Tom Campbell, Chief Executive of the North Highland Initiative, that the North Coast 500 route continues to garner influential global coverage – this week through inclusion (at number 2) in the list of “101 reasons to travel now” http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/101-reasons-to-travel-now-transportation/ and it is great to see the news that the famous Monte Carlo Rally will start from John O’Groats next year, 90 years since the first British winner of the endurance race started from John O’Groats. The rally has not started from John O’Groats for around 70 years, and is likely to bring huge interest to the area.

Enabling Activities

In one of my ongoing series of progress meetings with project owners of priority projects on the CNSRP Programme, I met today (Friday) with Stuart Black and Ian McGillivray of Highland Council to discuss progress with the project to upgrade the 1km stretch of the B876 that crosses the Killimster Moss between Reiss and Bower. As previously reported here, Highland Council’s Planning, Infrastructure and Development Committee has allocated capital resource to help deliver a solution, and Highland Council engineers are currently assessing the best technical options to deliver a lasting outcome.

 

I joined several local partners and stakeholders this week to meet Nick Scroggie and Carol Gunn of CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Digital team to discuss progress with the rollout of Next Generation (superfast) broadband in the north. It was good to talk about the various challenges being addressed through this major project, and to hear encouraging news on timescales for further coverage in both Caithness and north Sutherland. The meeting followed news last week from HIE that more than 10,000 homes and businesses in Caithness/ north Sutherland are now able to access superfast fibre broadband. Over the next six months nearly 900 premises in the villages of Bettyhill, Dunbeath, Keiss, Melvich and Reay are set to see local fibre networks built, joining Castletown, Halkirk, Lybster, Thrumster, Thurso and Wick where fibre based broadband is already available to order. The building work announced three months ago in Watten continues. In addition, following a re-modelling of the roll-out plans, HIE is confirming that the village of John O’Groats, which had been under evaluation, will see some fibre broadband installed in the 2016 programme. As highlighted last week, the rollout of superfast broadband is one of the key enabling projects on the CNSRP Programme. More at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/10-000-caithness-homes-and-businesses-have-access-to-new-broadband-networks.html#sthash.ol9R5IrW.dpbs

Communications:

As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:

  • Fantastic to hear this week of the further expansion of Ashley Ann’s business, with company MD Stephen Bremner confirming plans to recruit a number of jobs over the next two years as the company’s facility in Wick sees further investment. The workforce is likely to rise to around 160. Also good to hear Stephen highlight the company’s intention to commit to the Scottish Government’s Living Wage pledge. Ashley Ann’s growth over recent years has been supported by CNSRP partner HIE.