Western Isles harbour revamp starts following £380,000 investment

Work to improve and expand North Uist’s marine tourism facilities is set to start this week following a £380,000 investment from The Crown Estate.

The revamp of Lochmaddy harbour - which is a vital link in north west sailing routes - will benefit locals and attract visitors by increasing moorings and capacity for cruise liners, with knock-on benefits for the local economy.

The work, which includes construction of pontoons with 26 berths and floating walkways, lighting & electricity, and a car & bus park will be carried out by Gael Force Engineering and local contractors Mcinnes Bros Ltd. The facilities will be fully operational in May.

Comunn na Mara, which is responsible for the project, was the first organisation in the UK to secure a Local Management Agreement (LMAs). The Crown Estate introduced LMAs in 2012 to help local organisations directly manage areas of seabed and foreshore by developing projects that provide economic, social or environmental benefits for the community. LMAs offer packages of support such as project management and legal advice, help in securing funding and, when appropriate, direct investment on a commercial basis.

Angus Macaulay, Chair of Comman na Mara said: “After months of planning and preparation, work starting on site is a really exciting milestone - and the support from The Crown Estate has been critical in getting this project up and running. These new facilities will benefit the local economy by taking advantage of the huge and growing opportunities in marine tourism, ensuring that the Western Isles is firmly on the map for sailing.”

Alan Laidlaw, The Crown Estate’s Rural & Coastal Manager in Scotland, said: “This is exactly the sort of project which Local Management Agreements are designed to support. It will generate local economic benefits, provide a really valuable facility for the community and strengthen the wider north west sailing network. This and similar projects across Highlands & Islands underlines our commitment to work with coastal communities. The progress at Lochmaddy indicates the success of the LMA model and we are keen to roll them out in Scotland and the UK.”

Other LMAs include a Portree harbour project to expand capacity for cruise ships and the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust’s plans for a walkway, pontoons and more and more moorings at Ardminish Bay. The Gigha project has a £271,000 grant from the Coastal Communities Fund, a UK Government initiative that supports economic development projects (more detail here). The value of the CCF is linked to The Crown Estate’s revenues from activity on the seabed and coast, meaning communities can share in the benefits of increased returns.

At Lochmaddy, it is anticipated that the first year of operation will see 357 visiting boat nights and seven cruise liner visits. The income generated will be used for further pontoons and other facilities, as well as community events.

The Crown Estate is set up by an Act of Parliament and manages land and property across the UK, including the seabed and around half the foreshore. The business ensures that the assets are sustainably worked, developed and enjoyed to deliver long-term value. All annual revenue profits go to the UK Government.