A planning application for a new visitor centre on North Uist has been lodged with Comhairle
A detailed planning application for the proposed St Kilda viewpoint visitor centre at Beinn Riabhach, Balemartin, Isle of North Uist have been submitted to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar by Sealladh Hiort.
The application includes plans for the construction of a single storey building housing g the visitor centre, with a plant building and screen wall; access road, vehicle parking and turning area an ancillary works.
Designers, Fraser Architecture LLP, say in the design statement for the development, that the visitor centre would be located between two small knolls on the north west slope of Beinn Riabhach, which, along with the near-by small hills of Beinn Scolpaig and Carra-crom in the north west corner of North Uist are the closest elevated land to the St. Kilda archipelago.
‘From this elevated vantage point’, the Designers state, ‘it is possible to see features of the St. Kilda island group not visible from the lower lying surrounding land and that alongside the main island of Hirta, the neighbouring island of Dùn by Village Bay is visible and both Stac an Armin and Stac Lee can be seen flanking the island of Boreray.
‘In addition to this spectacular view of St Kilda’, the Designers add, ‘the panoramic view takes in numerous inhabited or previously inhabited islands [including] Heisgeir (Monach Isles) to the south, Harris, Scarp, Lewis, and islands in the Sound of Harris including Pabbay, Ensay, Killegray, Berneray and Vallay, right around to Sollas and Clachan Sands in North Uist which lie to the east. This is a view angle of almost 270 degrees’.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of St Kilda is the centre of a growing tourism sector with summer boat trips from the Outer Hebrides and an increasing number of cruise ships including the islands in their itinerary.
But, the Design Statement adds, ‘even with improved transport links…a visit to St Kilda is still reserved for the more adventurous travellers and the vast majority of visitors to the Outer Hebrides will never be able to make the journey to St. Kilda’.
The planning documents state that Sealladh Hiort’s ‘vision’ for the North Uist St Kilda Viewpoint Centre ‘is to tell the St. Kilda story within the broader context of the numerous, less distant, islands which lie off the coast of North Uist’.
This will include ‘the islands' comparative natural environments, their social histories, particularly looking at evacuations, alongside current developments such as recent environmental designations, the establishment and operation of the MoD Hebrides Range, and maritime management'.
In terms of economic benefits of the development, the Design Statement states, the centre would have ‘a significant positive local economic impact, within an expanding tourism sector’, and confirms that preliminary figures from 2018 estimated that the annual local economic impact for North Uist from the development would be nearly £346k a year, creating or safeguarding 6.4 full time equivalent jobs locally, excluding those created during the construction and fit out of the centre.