Welcome “step forward” for Calanais development

How the re-developed centre will look.How the re-developed centre will look.
How the re-developed centre will look.
The management committee of the Calanais Stones visitor centre has warmly welcomed the passing of a crucial milestone in their plans for redevelopment, after Comhairle nan Eilean Siar granted planning permission for the proposals.

The multi-million-pound funding package is still to be finalised, but in the wake of formal planning now being approved, discussions with funders will be stepped up in order to enable the works to proceed as quickly as possible.

Prior to the application appearing before the council’s planning board, some concern had been raised by officers that the plans encompassed were designated a “sensitive development”, although they ‘acceptable in terms of the quality of design, and role in place-making” and would not have “undue impact” on the character of the site.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The offices told the board that the concerns were in relation to pedestrian paths and “circulation routes” to and through the car park and the expansion of built structures into the undeveloped land to the south of the existing buildingings, with the risk that “this may set a precedent that would impact upon the setting of the Callanish monuments”.

Kenny MacLennan: "Community here are fully supportive"Kenny MacLennan: "Community here are fully supportive"
Kenny MacLennan: "Community here are fully supportive"

The tourism benefits from the development were also recognised as being "a significant material consideration, given the global interest in and national importance of the Callanish Standing Stones site”.

Speaking after the councillors gave the development planning consent, subject to conditions, including measures relating to the management of the development works, archaeological assessments and site management at the site, Vice Chair of the Board, Cllr John A MacIver, said: “This is an exciting new development which will enhance the experience of the increasing number of visitors to Callanish, and especially for those coming from the growing number of cruise ships visiting the island.”

The development includes an upgraded café, shop, and exhibition areas, a new function suite, a detached plant room, a detached public convenience building and covered bin storage.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In addition, the development will see remodelling to the Centre’s existing car park, bus drop-off and lay-over bays, and access roads.

Ian Fordham, Chair of Urras nan Tursachan the charity that runs the Calanais Visitor Centre, said: “We are thrilled that our plans have been approved for this major project. It has been quite a journey getting to this stage and would not have been possible without the support of our local community and wider stakeholders.

“The redevelopment of the centre has been a long-term ambition of the community and over the last fourteen years local involvement has ensured the project reflects the aspirations of the community and respects the ancient heritage of our neighbouring Calanais Standing Stones.”

Urras nan Tursachan expressed their thanks to the Comhairle and JM Architects’ design team for working with the organisation to achieve the best design possible within the constraints of the site.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ian Fordham also expressed particular thanks to Highlands and Islands Enterprise who funded the planning phase of the project: “The trust is grateful for their ongoing support in the delivery of the Calanais 2025 initiative.”

Urras Community Board member Kenny Maclennan, chair of local community land owned estate Urras Oighreachd Charlabhaigh, commented: "This indeed is a major step forward for the re-development of our visitor centre at Calanais. The current centre has been an integral part of this community for the past 30 years and this is now a huge milestone as the proposed redevelopment project moves forward.

“The community here are fully supportive of the project and are looking forward to the long-term benefits that will come in the form of job opportunities and an enhanced visitor experience. We are looking forward to the works getting underway very soon and having a state-of-the-art visitor centre.”

Mr Fordham concluded: “The charity looks forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure the successful delivery of this exciting improvement to our local infrastructure.

"This approval of planning permission marks a crucial step forward in the project's progress and we are now on track to move forward, pending the securing of the full funding package.”