Published: 10/11/2017 11:00 - Updated: 10/11/2017 15:31

Top Sutherland attraction could finally get loo

Written byMike Merritt

 

Cape Wrath lighthouse

 

Talks are underway to construct one of the country’s most unusual buildings - the remotest public toilet on mainland Britain.

But would-be users are being warned not to be flushed with success just yet - even though the nearby local community are willing to spend more than a penny on building it.

The loo is wanted after an unusual bid by locals in Durness in Sutherland to buy land in a bombing range was abandoned.

The site near the famous lighthouse at Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point on the UK mainland, was seen as vital to neighbouring Durness.

The Scottish Land Fund (SLF) awarded £22,500 to a development group to work up a business plan and feasibility study so that locals at Durness - 10 miles away - could buy 111 acres of the cape from the Northern Lighthouse Board.

Durness Development Group (DDG) was targeting the SLF for the funds to purchase the only land the Ministry of Defence does not own at the cape, which for 120 days of the year is a bombing range.

The group had been seeking backing from locals before deciding whether to push ahead with one of the country’s most unusual community buyouts.

It sent a survey to all the households in the village asking if they still support the buyout and what direction - from a list of options - it should take.

But it said only 23 out of 150 households had returned the questionnaire and gave up on the buyout because of a lack of demonstrable support.

Now a community owned composting toilet may all that will be built as a result of a crowdfunding appeal to back the buyout.

Sarah Fuller, chairof DDG, revealed this week that talks with the NLB are taking place over installing a loo.

It is believed the facility could be built for around £6000.

"I think we could meet the cost. It was the facility that time and time again, in all the surveys, people most wanted there," she said.

"The buyout is not going ahead but we would like a compost toilet at the lighthouse - it is badly needed.

"We are currently negotiating with NLB, but they are non-committal at this stage. We are hoping things can be progressed and that a toilet can be open for next season. It would certainly be well appreciated by visitors."

The lighthouse stands at the top of a 11 mile road that can only accessed by seasonal ferry across the Kyle of Durness or a similar long yomp over rugged terrain from near Kinlochbervie.

There was once a full-time community of around 35 people living on the Cape in the 1930s. Today it is just John Ure, who runs the cafe by the lighthouse.

Four years ago the MoD was halted in its £58,000 purchase of the buyout targeted land from the NLB, which would have added to the 25,000 acres it already owns in the area.

The then First Minister Alex Salmond said: "If the community is able to go ahead and successfully purchase the land, it will secure a stronger local economy for the people of Durness and preserve one of Scotland’s iconic landscapes for generations to come.

"Put bluntly, we would see more benefits for the local area rather than more land for bombing - the principal use the rest of the cape is put to by the MoD."

Because of the community’s interest, the MoD announced in 2014 that it had decided "not to proceed" with the purchase of land around the 400-feet high light, built in 1828 by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather Robert.

However the military is increasing its use of Cape Wrath - with the installation this year of three new major gun battery sites.

The military usually shell from the land at the Faraid Head peninsula - opposite the cape at Durness - and often to Garvie Island.

A previous development plan by consultants commissioned by DDG said Cape Wrath currently attracts around 6,000 visitors each year and could manageably be increased to 10,000. The cape is estimated to be worth more than £600,000 to the nearby Durness economy.

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