It may be known as the gateway to the UK’s tallest mountain, but Fort William has never scaled the heights of urban development. 

The Highland town, known as An Gearasdan in Gaelic, has twice been shortlisted for the infamous Carbuncle Award after plans to redevelop its waterfront were abandoned in 2010.

But now a group of local volunteers have a won a national design competition for their vision of how the community can reconnect with the shores of Loch Linnhe.

The Fort William Town Team were this week named the winners of the 2016 FutureTown Design competition, following a public vote.

The group envision a number of ways to encourage marine tourism in the area, including the cosntruction of semi-circular balconies over Loch Linnhe, and a new sheltered performance space in the town centre.

“It’s well-known that due to historic misfortune, Fort William has turned its back on its waterfront,” said the group in a collective statement. An artist's impression on Fort William could reconnect to its waterfront.  

“We believe that reconnecting the town centre to the water will be the key to the regeneration of An Gearasdan. 

“We look forward to working with our partner groups including Fort William Marina & Shoreline Company and Friends of the Old Fort, together with the Highland Council and other bodies, to put the wheels in motion for realising this ultimate goal. 

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted for us. To receive recognition for our design at this level is amazing.”

The competition, now in its second year, aims to help communities imagine how derelict spaces can be brought back to life, footfall can be increased, or simply offer ideas for brightening up street scenes.

It was organised by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), the national agency and ‘go to’ body for towns north of the border.

“The design demonstrates how creative thinking about the future by the local community can highlight ways that towns can flourish to the benefit of all who live in them,” said Phil Prentice of STP.

“We look forward to inviting the Fort William Town Team to present their idea at one of our flagship events over the next year. “We were delighted with the quality of all the submissions to the FutureTown design competition.

“Each entrant has put great thought into how design changes could improve an aspect of their local area, and collectively they have shown that small, locally-generated improvements can make a big potential difference to the vitality, sustainability, and connectivity of towns and city districts across Scotland.”

Source: Scotsman

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