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A tourism plan which will allow projects to be put forward for funding has been completed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and accepted by VisitScotland, councillors will hear at their committee meetings next week.

A report to be put before the sustainable development committee on Tuesday (7 February) says that the final draft of the Outer Hebrides Visitor Infrastructure Plan (OHVIP) was approved by VisitScotland in January.

It allows the projects detailed within it to form the basis of future applications to VisitScotland’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF).

And the planning has already proved its value, with confirmation late in 2022 that VisitScotland is supporting North Harris Trust’s Urgha Aire project, with £85,553 to develop five motorhome bays, with electric hook-ups and a grey-water disposal point, outside Tarbert, Isle of Harris.

The report to councillors details how Uist and Harris architects Duncan MacPherson Fraser consulted more than 500 people, learning that central issues for tourism infrastructure were publicly accessible toilets, refuse collection and suitable parking around popular sites.

Other issues raised during the consultations included problems with access to beaches and the protection of machair, inadequate signage, lack of charging points for cars and e-bikes and road safety issues.

The OHVIP now approved by VisitScotland should open the way for funding not only of the Urgha Aire – which is expected to be complete by summer this year – but of projects throughout the Outer Hebrides including campsites in Cliff and Bosta, improved parking in Northton and Loch Skipport, improvements along the Hebridean Way and improved beach access in Uist, Barra and Berneray.

Councillors will hear that completion of the OHVIP paves the way for the Comhairle, along with its communities, to develop island tourism infrastructure sustainably and sympathetically, through levering in investment to address the issues.

The picture shows Northton in south Harris, where improved parking is to be provided (Chris Murray).