Skye firm “thrilled” by chance to revamp Portree square into thriving space

Peter Urquhart , Iain Galbraith, Fiona Thomson and Chris James look forward to developing the Camanachd Square and surrounding area.

Skye Architecture firm Rural Design has said it is thrilled to have the chance to develop Camanachd Square in Portree into a thriving community space after its proposal for the major project was chosen by the Portree and Braes Community Trust.

The Trust selected the island practice as its preferred candidate from several submissions during a meeting held last Tuesday (4th January) in Portree.

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At present the community facilities in Camanachd Square are owned, leased, and maintained by multiple organisations.

An options appraisal, masterplan, and business case study will examine existing and potential uses for the community centre and adjacent facilities and will guide the long-term regeneration of the area.

Assets earmarked within the regeneration plans include the Portree community centre building, the King George V playing fields, the red pitch community skate park facility, and the old swimming pool site.

Speaking to the Free Press following the company’s successful bid, Rural Design business director Iain Galbraith said: “We’re thrilled to have been selected to work with Portree and Braes Community Trust to re-imagine Camanachd Square and explore how to make best use of the community centre.

“It’s great to see how the trust’s enthusiasm is acting as a catalyst for the development in the village. This part of Portree has become neglected over many years, but we see an opportunity to develop a thriving community space for the benefit of residents of the island and visitors to Portree alike.”

Underlining the firm’s credentials for such a project, he added: “Having undertaken projects such as Talla na Mara for the West Harris Trust and the community owned trading site in Armadale for Sleat Community Trust, we have seen how ambitious community-led projects can be transformational.

“Rural Design will be working alongside Nick Wright Planning and Duncan MacPherson who bring a wealth of experience in community consultation and development on projects across the Highlands and Islands.

“We are all looking forward to working with the Trust and wider community to develop a proposal that will be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable for many years to come.”

Following the announcement last week of Rural Design’s winning tender, Portree and Braes Community Trust development officer Fiona Thomson revealed that the project will take around eight months to complete and will provide a masterplan for Camanachd Square to guide development over the next two decades.

The plan will include a concept design for an environmentally and financially sustainable community hub building.

Setting out the next steps in the process, Ms Thomson told the Free Press that an initial meeting between Rural Design and the Trust will take place this month.

Part one of the project, which will run until May, will focus on gathering data, consulting with the community, and exploring a range of development options for Camanachd Square.

The second phase will then take place from June until around September and will involve the production of a master plan including a concept design for community building and a high-level business case following public consultation.

Ms Thomson said: “We hope the community can support the project as it’s our best chance of securing much needed investment in the community centre and the surrounding areas.”

The Coastal Communities Fund has awarded the Trust £29,000 in funding to deliver part one and part two of the Reimagining Camanachd Square project by December 2022.

Article by Adam Gordon, image by Willie Urquhart.