The Lochinver Mission Building Project has come about as a result of the decision by the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen deciding to withdraw from Lochinver after many years of serving the fishing community here, as there are now far fewer fishermen needing their services. Residents have supported the Mission well over the years, and have, in turn, been welcome recipients of some of the services supplied by the Mission.
Now, with their withdrawal, the community is determined to maintain and develop further some of these services, to promote economic and civic activity centred around the Mission Building.
The support of many people and groups, including our Highland Councillors, is core to the initiative, and this website is part of the process of pulling together all the different parties, information, support, and ideas necessary to make this happen.
The business plan submitted to the BIG lottery which resulted in the village winning the award to make the project possible is available for download in PDF format here
Steering Group members are:
Sandy Johnston (chair)
Lochinver is a fishing village which is the heart of the parish of Assynt, situated on the west coast of Sutherland in the remote and sparsely populated North West Highlands of Scotland. Founded due to its sheltered bay and natural harbour, it is set amongst distinctive mountains in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and worldwide geological importance. It once had a thriving fishing industry, which was serviced by the presence of a Fishermen’s Mission facility. With the decline of the fishing industry over recent years the Mission finally took the decision to close its facility in early 2008, which caused the loss of a valuable social meeting and eating place for the local community.
The village is surrounded by and services a number of scattered crofting communities, an occupation which is similarly in decline due to an ageing population and distance from markets (the nearest town being 80 miles away).
The village supports a post office, two grocery shops, butcher, chandlery, two pubs, restaurant, pottery, two hotels and numerous B & B’s reflecting the growing reliance in recent years on the highly seasonal tourist trade. This has led to a lack of year round employment opportunities for young people leading them to leave the area. The resultant ageing population has meant a continually falling school roll (lowest since 1820) causing the loss of teaching posts.
Due to the remoteness from statutory agencies, many services are provided by voluntary groups leading to a high sense of community identity. However due to the low wage economy, sustaining this high level of community activity is becoming increasingly unsustainable. Where economic conditions allow, there is a very high quality of life and almost total lack of crime.
The sense of remoteness is aggravated by poor public transport links to Inverness (100 miles distant), where the nearest centre of population and provider of further education, major stores, essential services, rail links and employment opportunities are located.
Following the closure the community held a public meeting and tasked the Assynt Community Association to seek a way of keeping the Mission building for community use. Following consultations with the community a Steering Group was set up to take the project forward and address the following needs:
- Reduce isolation;
- Create a meeting place for all ages at the heart of the village;
- Preserve our maritime and cultural heritage;
- Create jobs, volunteering and training opportunities;
- Increase the sustainability of our local economy;
- Increase knowledge and understanding of green and energy efficiency measures.
The result was an ambitious project to purchase and convert the former Fisherman’s Mission to create:
- A Marine Life and Sea Heritage Centre, with associated lobster nursery;
- Digital archive;
- Cafeteria and gift shop;
- Bunkhouse accommodation; and
- An energy efficient building
The benefits to the community will be:
- An affordable year round eatery for people to meet, gather and socialise away from licensed premises or expensive and seasonal tourist restaurants, providing a year round outlet for local produce.
- Indoor facilities which attract, welcome, occupy and inform visitors, particularly those with families (who also have a need for affordable meals)
- Hostel type accommodation for backpackers and visiting groups.
- An archive to preserve the maritime and cultural heritage.
- Promotion of green and efficient energy principles.