Meeting held on Lews Castle

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The Lews Castle Project Board, local business representatives and members of the OHTIA met yesterday (Thursday) with Natural Retreats, the preferred bidder for the Castle project.

The company outlined their proposals for the accommodation part of the project.

The Lews Castle Project is unique and will include a new museum and archive and a 5 star accommodation facility in the iconic Castle overlooking Stornoway. The new museum will feature six of the world famous Lewis Chessmen.

Today’s meeting was called by the Project Board which is made up of representatives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Stornoway Trust and HIE.

Discussions are continuing between Natural Retreats, the Project Board and the Comhairle and no final decisions have been made yet as to whether the company’s proposals will go ahead.

Cllr Roddie Mackay who chaired the meeting, said: “Natural Retreats gave us a really good presentation which highlighted some of the key aspects of their proposals for the accommodation aspect of the project. These proposals include 5 star accommodation set up to be as flexible as possible to provide guests with a choice of available facilities.”

Issues covered at the meeting included the procurement process, the nature of the proposals, state aids, the possibility of displacement of existing jobs and the limitations of ferry capacity.

Cllr Mackay said: “Two of the main issues discussed at the meeting were the ferry capacities and displacement. We need to impress upon Cal-Mac the importance to tourism in the islands of having adequate capacity and services. To my mind the current proposals from Cal-Mac are wholly inadequate. On the issue of displacement, work is being done on that at the moment. No-one argues there will be no displacement – the question is whether there will be a prospect of increased economic activity across several sectors. The meeting agreed that we would re-convene to discuss these issues when we have more information.”