Capitalising on the North Coast 500 route, brightening up the town centre and giving it more of a purpose are all on the agenda for a north town.
More than 50 retailers and business owners gathered in Wick to discuss the future of the town and to begin to look at a strategy to tackle derelict buildings, and improve the “tired” look of the area.
Proposals now on the table include a focus on derelict buildings, an indoor market, better signage, attractive public gathering spaces, more trees and flowers, shop front improvements and a “coherent visual identity that reflects Wick’s character and history”.
Wick and East Caithness councillors Raymond Bremner, Willie Mackay, Andrew Sinclair and Nicola Sinclair joined forces to host a meeting for residents, business owners and retailers from the immediate town centre area.
In a detailed presentation, the councillors outlined work undertaken to date, which included four town centre tours, hundreds of images, a mapping exercise, monthly meetings with council regeneration and planning officers, and meetings with key stakeholders.
The councillors have already identified various funding possibilities – including council investment – and currently have an application pending with Sustrans for a town centre design project.
Speaking on behalf of all four Wick councillors, Councillor Nicola Sinclair said: ‘We’ve done extensive groundwork and research into town centre regeneration since our election nearly two years ago, and the successful initiatives are the ones that try to do things differently.
“We won’t turn the town centre around by hoping for a big new retail chain, nor should we.
‘I feel that Wick town centre is a No Man’s Land between our beautiful Riverside and the now-vibrant Harbour.
“We need to give it its own distinct identity and style, which gives visitors and locals a warm welcome and reflects our proud maritime and civic history.
‘We have an incredible voluntary sector here and elected members are working across party lines to find a way to make this happen.
“In these financial times we need to get creative, but we genuinely believe it can be done, if we all work together.”