Approximately a year ago, the local press published a letter in which I expressed concerns about the ongoing delays in starting work on the proposed new Bhaltos Outdoor Centre in Uig Lewis on which, I’m led to understand, a time limit of the current financial year has been imposed for spending the available funding.
I also predicted that there would be further delays because the £1.2 million allocated by the Western Isles Council considerably underestimated the construction costs associated with the type of building proposed, the facilities to be provided, the numbers to be accommodated and the nature of the site; an opinion based on comparisons with the costs of similar projects in other locations. It’s also worth noting that the comhairle are contributing only a third of the actual money, the balance being made up of grants from various funding bodies.
At that same time a local newspaper carried a report in which no such concerns were raised by a comhairle representative, who instead confidently predicted an October start to construction work for completion by late summer 2014. Regrettably, my own prediction was the most accurate – to date, not a sod of turf has been removed from the Bhaltos site
The last news was in January when the architectural plans for the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre were put on public display. On seeing those rather futuristic designs, my own thoughts at the time were that the comhairle would have to employ a troupe of magicians to bring the project to fruition within the £1.2 million price tag quoted. Shortly afterwards, as if by magic, those plans disappeared from the drawing board.
With the clock ticking towards the spending deadline, there has been little subsequent information put into the public domain about this long-awaited project. This letter allows the comhairle to publicly respond with a progress report on the latest developments by answering the following questions:
- Why were the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre plans withdrawn?
- Have those plans now been redrawn?
- What effect will such redesigning have on the projected visitor accommodation numbers?
- Is there sufficient time available to complete the project within the imposed time frame?
- If so,what is the revised timetable for construction work?
These updated details are asked for and on behalf of anyone with an interest in the future of the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre but who feel excluded from the information loop.
Iain M Macdonald