The first sight of fully developed design proposals for a St Kilda visitor centre in North Uist has been given to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s planning department.
The design statement was submitted by Fraser Architecture of Carinish on 29 March and details the plans for Sealladh Hiort, the St Kilda viewpoint visitor centre, at a site between two hills at Beinn Riabhach, near Balemartin.
It’s the latest development in a series of applications dating back to 2017, when the site was first proposed for a viewpoint and destination giving visitors the best perspective on the UNESCO double world heritage site of St Kilda.
The proposed design for the centre includes static and audio-visual displays, a small shop and reception area and a wide viewing gallery with a panoramic outlook over Dun Scolpaig and out to sea.
The applicants say that their design has been led by sympathetic environmental concerns, using a low-maintenance and visually unobtrusive palette of colours and materials.
These, they said: “will combine with the simple building form to ensure that the building will sit sympathetically in its setting when viewed from both above and below.
“The proposed form of construction will minimise environmental impact on the ground, with ‘light touch’ pier foundations and off-site pre-assembly of the main building components enabling minimal groundworks and reduced on-site construction time.”
Among environmental concerns being addressed is the impact of development on deep peat layers within the South Lewis, Harris, and North Uist National Scenic Area (NSA).
The access route has been redesigned to minimise impact on the natural and archaeological heritage of the area, and former peat-cuttings nearby are to be restored using the peat cut to allow the works.
The interaction between the building and its environment is one of the plan’s strengths, according to the applicants.
They say: “The NSA encompasses a richly varied mix of land and seascapes and one of its outstanding qualities is the intervisibility between landscapes of differing characters, especially from elevated vantage points.
“In the panoramic sweep of its viewing gallery, the proposed visitor centre will showcase much of this rich diversity.
“This exciting community-led development will provide an enhanced visitor experience in North Uist for both residents and visitors as well as creating employment.
“The proposed site on Beinn Riabhach offers the best view of the St Kilda archipelago from the Outer Hebrides. The elevated position allows visitors to see the full form of the islands, something which cannot be seen from elsewhere.
“The building and the road access have been carefully located to minimise the visual impact of the development. The road has been designed to minimise disturbance to peatland and the building specification and environmental design have been designed to significantly exceed zero and low carbon building requirements.”
The pictures show the site of the proposed visitor centre as seen from Scolpaig Farm, views from the site of Hiort, Boreray, Stac an Armin and Stac Lee, and the architect’s design for the proposed building (Fraser Architecture LLP).