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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 11th January 2003
Issue No 314

Feasibility Probe for Skye Airport

Highlands and Islands Enterprise want a feasibility study to be conducted into proposals to build a new airport in Skye, which could enable the island to attract hundreds of thousands of extra visitors each year.

HIE chief executive Sandy Cummings said he wants to see a network of local airports throughout the Highlands and Islands in order to boost transport and economic development generally. The idea for the airport came from two Skye councillors, Gavin Scott Moncrieff and Drew Millar, who suggested a location north og Portree, between Drumuie and Kensaleyre. Mr Cumming said: "I think we have to take all these ideas very seriously. What is vital at the moment is improving access links to the Highlands and Islands and we will certainly get alongside that proposal. What we need to do now is to undertake a feasibility study to see if it's a possibility or not. The other project that is running at the moment is the development of Oban airport at Connel. What a huge difference that would make to the economy of the west Highlands. We are firmly behind that and working with the local authority to ensure that will become a very powerful driver for the local economy." He added: "There is an opportunity for a network of these local airports to be established. Clearly one of the issues is the funding regime and how we actually make this work. The concept of more of those regional hubs in the Highlands is one that appeals and is worth more exploration and development," said Sandy Cumming. Bob MacLeod, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, said that a new airport in Skye, suitable to handle passenger jets such as those used by Ryanair, would be expensive, but not necessarily uneconomic. Bob MacLeod said: "The Skye councillors have a point. The Isle of Skye would undoubtedly attract a lot of visitors and could probably take in one million people a year if the fares were sufficiently low. But you need a suitable airport which would need to have a lot of facilities, and it could cost anything from 60m to 100m to build. That is a huge investment, but I don't think that's impossible if a public private partnership was set up for example. They would also need an operator for the airport. But I'm sure they would get the number of visitors they require into Skye."

Lochaber Hydrotherapy Celebrates

A 17th century trust has put a Lochaber health project back on track with an out of the blue promise of a 70,000 donation. The breakthrough means the Lochaber Hydrotherapy charity can now re-apply for National Lottery funding towards the cost of the 500,000 scheme after thrice being knocked back. Supporters are also confident that Highland Health Board will finally throw their weight behind the project, as required for lottery cash, after earlier rebuffs. Four years of fundraising has brought in 161,000 towards the proposed hydrotherapy pool, for which planning consent exists for a site at Belford Road, Fort William. But its first application for lottery cash was rejected in June 1999, and again months later, because it was claimed the organisation had not demonstrated a need for the facility. A third setback came early last year when a change in criteria meant the charity would have to raise considerably more money to be eligible for funding. But, with the pool's cost having increased for the initial 338,000 to the latest 500,000 estimate and rising by the month, the future of the whole project looked in jeopardy. But the charity was told by the London based Henry Smith Charity that it had agreed to pledge 70,000 towards the cost, subject to backers raising the balance and putting revenue funding in place. Henry Smith, born in London's Wandsworth in 1545, was a successful salter by trade who also purchased a number of estates in England. Before his death in 1628, he set up a number of charitable trusts for the relief of the poor, leaving their trustees 2,000. That formed the basic endowment of a charity which was transferred to the Wellcome Trust in 1998.

Gairloch Radio

The Tw Loch Radio group, based in Gairloch, has reached a milestone along the path to its goal of bringing a local radio to the communities of Gairloch and Loch Ewe. Months of hard work by volunteers in the community group came together recently with a formal application to the Radio Authority for a broadcasting licence, supported by publication of independent market research into the views of the population. The Radio Authority confirmed that the local group's bid was the only one received by the deadline, and that a decision on awarding the licence should be reached around the end of the year. The new station will be the country's smallest licensed broadcasting station, serving a core population of just over 2,000 adults, and will be staffed by volunteers from the community it serves. It also hopes to serve Staffin on Skye, which shares many historical connections with the Gairloch area, and is co-operating with the recently licensed Skye based Cuillin FM station on plans to share programmes, particularly in Gaelic or about the cultural heritage of the area, and bringing together the communities.

Capercaillie Aid

An anonymous bird lover has bequeathed 250,000 to help save one of Britain's rarest birds. Other members of the RSPB chipped in a similar amount in donations for the protection of the capercaillie. The 500,000 in the legacy and donations to RSPB Scotland helped raise almost 2 million to buy 2,066 acres of pine wood in the Highlands which will be managed as a capercaillie sanctuary. The purchase of Revack Forest Estate in Strathspey extends RSPB Scotland's internationally renowned Abernethy Forest Reserve near Aviemore. There are now fewer than 1000 capercaillie in the UK, all of which are found in Scotland. The total cost of purchase and start up management for Revack Forest will come to nearly 2 million.

Morvern Chapel

A derelict Lochaber chapel, where a woman who became Australia's first saint once worshipped, could be given a new lease of life. Highland councillors are investigating a 190,000 project to restore the remote St Columba's Roman Catholic Church at Drimnin on the Morvern Peninsula. It could see it turned into a visitor or interpretative facility as part of a drive to promote Morvern's heritage, or used as a field study or outdoor centre. The proposals have emerged from a 2,000 feasibility study into the condition and potential of the building, carried out by Ayr based architects ARP Lorimer. The practice was involved in the restoration of St Edward's Chapel, Canna, and is also acting as agents for Ayrshire millionaire Lex Brown, who wants, controversially, to reroof Castle Tioram. Sir Charles Gordon of Drimnin demolished the 16th century Maclean of Drimnin Castle to make way for the church, built for 520 and one of the first Roman Catholic churches on the West Coast. Mother Mary MacKillop, whose parents emigrated from Lochaber to Australia where she was born, worshipped there when she returned to Scotland in 1873 after founding convents and schools. In the mid 90s she was beatified by the Pope at a ceremony in Sydney and was later made the country's first saint. Although difficult to reach, the chapel has been included on the itinerary of Australian pilgrims who want to follow in the Blessed Mary's footsteps.

Under the Hammer

An Easter Ross woman accepted a ^5 bid for her husband so she could take part in a Cuban cycle challenge. Carole Herd put husband, Mike, up for auction at a charity dinner in the Grand Hall at Tulloch Castle, Dingwall. It was part of her efforts to raise the 2,300 needed to take part in the sponsored challenge cycle ride round Cuba this month to raise funds for the National Deaf Children's Society. Mr Herd went for 65 and will now take two people to a wildlife reserve for a day, instructing them on making a video film. Mr Herd is well qualified, having recently won a major award in China for being the first and only person to film man eating tigers in Bangladesh. The auction, which also offered a three day cookery course with Lady Claire Macdonald, a day at a health spa and fishing trips raised 1,700 with over 120 coming from a raffle. A highly delighted Mrs Herd has now exceeded her target by 700. "There were four bids for Mike which I think was quite good."

Back to Lochaber

After Fort William's success in hosting the 2002 Mountain Bike World Cup, the International Cycle Union (UCI) announced a triple world cup will return to Fort William this year. Featuring the first downhill and 4x world cups in the UK, the 2002 world cup brought spectacular mountain biking to the slopes of the Nevis Range ski area and a 500,000 boost for the local economy. A new track was built in Fort William for the 4x which involves male and female events where four cyclists compete against each other down a 30 second track with jumps and obstacles. In this years world cups, to begin in May, they will be joined by the cross country, an Olympic discipline that requires two and a half hours of endurance through the Leanachan Forest that surrounds the Nevis Range. Mike Jardine of the organisers, Rare Management, based in Edinburgh, said: "Everyone involved in putting on the event is excited about a bigger and better world cup this year. "The introduction of cross country will create new levels of interest and bring mountain biking together for a great festival in the Highlands."

Charity Event

A charity football match raised a staggering 900 which was spilt between Clach Rangers FC and Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland. The cheques were presented by Isabel MacRae, the widow of the former groundsman at Clach Park, to Clach Rangers captain Zak Khan and Una Taylor of Chest Heart and Stroke.

Political Roundup

Cash Shortfall Warning

The funding settlement for Highland Council will leave a shortfall of several million pounds because of the botched method of allocating funding throughout Scotland, according to Highland MSP Fergus Ewing. The Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MSP is seeking a meeting with the Education Minister to discuss the matter. Mr Ewing said: "The Executive allocated the funding required to implement the McRone settlement for teachers' pay not on the basis of the number of teachers but on the basis of the number of pupils. "This inevitably discriminates against areas such as Highland Council with more dispersed population and lower school roles."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Frosty in places, sunny periods in the E. Cloudier in W and far N. Winds light W-SWly. Temperature 3c to 7c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy with patches of rain, especially in the W. Clear periods in the E. Winds fresh/strong W-SW'ly. Temperature 1c to 6c.
Cloudy to overcast skies with bursts of rain heavy at times.
Cloudy with spells of rain, brighter at times in the NE.

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