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Plantation people: What’s it like to live in the Fort William housing estate?

From 'no-go areas' and damp... to proud 'Planny' residents caring for their homes. We explored the area that splits opinion in the Highland town.

The Plantation, Fort William
People said The Plantation was divided into three parts. Image: Louise Glen/ DC Thomson.

With ageing houses and a reputation for drugs and crime it is one of the most deprived areas of Fort William, but what is it like to live in The Plantation?

We have been speaking to residents and former residents who have shared the benefits and pitfalls of living in an area that often gets a bad name as well as shedding light on the strong community that has formed there.

Some describe it as “the best place to live”, others outline social problems – but on the whole, it is a distinctive part of Fort William, where the majority of people look out for others.

With a food hub soon to be opened and the annual summer fete taking shape – it is hoped even more locals will take part to strengthen the community.

The Plantation, Fort William
Parts of The Plantation are inaccessible by road. Image: Louise Glen/ DC Thomson.

Fort William is known as one of the wettest locations in the UK, and The Plantation – as it sits on a hillside away from Loch Linnhe is often the wettest part of town.

There are a couple of hundred homes in the area, with a mixture of families, single people, elderly and young people living there.

People have told us that there are three distinct areas in The Plantation.

Parts of the Plantation

The area in the centre of the housing scheme has grown into a place where people with families are housed. It has interconnecting houses and narrow pathways around the centre.

The top of the estate, is known for a settled population with many older residents who have lived in the area since the houses were built.

The homes near the entrance of the estate have become known as an area with a large number of social problems. One resident described it as a ‘no-go’ area at night.

The Plantation, Fort William
The Community Hub only appears to be open one day a week. Image: Louise Glen/ DC Thomson.

‘Plantation a brilliant place to live’

Bobby Watson, 56, has lived in The Planny for 43 years.

He said: “It’s a brilliant place to live, and there is a great community spirit. We have been working on plans for this year’s fete and bringing the community together.

“People who are not from here will tell you it is the worst place in the world to live.

“But if you live here, you will know that is not the case. Everywhere has social problems, but there is only one Planny.”

The dad-of-0ne said he and his son regularly go out and do litter picks, and in the next few weeks, the community association hope to open a food bank in the hub.

He continued: “I would say there are beautiful parts of the Planny.

Up at Henderson Row, there is a great community.

Bobby Watson lives in The Plantation.
Bobby Watson is a huge fan of The Plantation. Image: Supplied.

Adding: “I understand what people are saying that there are problems.

“They are referring to three or four households, they are not talking about the whole area.

“It is not as bad as it used to be.”

Bobby along with other members has set up the Plantation Community Association.

Gardens popular in the Plantation

Two women working in their garden clearing away debris from a former tenant said: “We think that our house in the middle of The Plantation is in a nice bit.

Some people really take care of their homes here.

“It is difficult to get a house in Fort William, so getting a house with a garden just a few minutes walk down to the town centre is brilliant.”

The Plantation, Fort William
A fire-damaged home in the Plantation. Image: Louise Glen/ DC Thomson.

But the downside is that there are “infrequent” bus services from the town back up into The Plantation.

Another woman told us: “At night there are some streets in The Plantation that I would just not go to.

“There are a lot of drug users, and they all seem to have houses in one area of The Plantation.

“It is a no-go area at night. Even the police seem frightened to come up.”

Andrei Kapusta, 28, said: “I have lived here for a few months, and it is not so bad.”

Asked if he let his children play out in the garden, he said: “Only when I can be with them.”

The Plantation, Fort William
People said parts of The Plantation were a ‘no-go’ at night. Image: Louise Glen/ DC Thomson.

She referred to a recent incident where a house door was set alight.

She continued: “You lock your door at night and shut your curtains.

“There are just some things you do not want to see.”

Highland Council’s Fort William 2040 document shows that the houses in The Plantation are a mixture of social housing, privately let homes and private owners.

Dampness in couple’s home

One couple who lives near the top of the scheme said: “We are in a private let and the house is riddled with dampness.

“We both work in the NHS and would love to consider staying here in Lochaber, but there is nothing available in our price bracket to rent or buy.”

They also said they were unable to open their windows, because “the stench of cannabis”.

For a three-bedroomed house in The Plantation, prices average around £160,000.

Some of the family-sized houses are built over three levels,

The homes have a ground level opening up to the living area, the lower level on to a garden.

‘I get worried there will be a big fire’

Shona MacKillop, 57, said she was “afraid” that a fire would break out in the centre of The Plantation.

She said: “I do get worried that a large fire, or fight or trouble will break out in the middle of the scheme and emergency services won’t be able to get to it.

Mrs MacKillop said she was concerned that neighbours no longer knew each other as they had in the past.