Land vacated by a grocery giant could now become a new hospital for Lochaber, it has emerged.
The Highland Council has bought the Blar Mhor site in Fort William for £2million from Tesco after the firm abandoned plans to build a new store.
Fort William was one of dozens of plans which were shelved by the company after a tough year’s trading.
Now the eight acres is being earmarked for a replacement for the ageing Belford Hospital.
And a science academy for West Highland College could also be accommodated on the site.
Working with NHS Highland, HIE, West Highland College UHI and the Scottish Government, the Highland Council acted in an enabling role in securing this strategic site for a new hospital and potentially a new science academy for the West Highland college.
As part of the deal, once funding is in place to build the new hospital, NHS Highland will transfer the existing hospital site to the council to deliver affordable housing in the centre of Fort William.
NHS Highland and West Highland College will now work with the council to take forward proposals for the site, which will deliver the new hospital and other uses.
Chairwoman of planning and development, Councillor Audrey Sinclair said: “This is a tremendous and long awaited success for the Lochaber area. It is a good example of partners working together to achieve success.
“The deal will enable the area to flourish with the prospect of a new much needed hospital and additional facilities for the West Highland College.
“I would like to add recognition for former council leader Michael Foxley who was a significant force behind this project and worked to get Scottish government support to make this happen.”
Mr Foxley, who is an NHS Highland board member, said: “As instigator of the plan, this is a great result for teamwork and genuine community planning across six public bodies.”
He added: “I am confident that on the redundant Tesco site, a new hospital and a science learning centre will rise like a phoenix.”
Leader of the Lochaber area committee, Councillor Thomas MacLennan said: “This is an important first step forward for the many partners involved in securing for Fort William and Lochaber a new 21st century hospital and potentially other much needed developments.”