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Businesses reject improvement plan

A SCHEME to help breathe new life into Lochaber has been rejected by businesses in the area.

A cinema for Fort William, a long distance walking hub, watersports development and Dark Skies status for Ardnamurchan, were all key to the plan.

But the local business community has voted by more than three to one to reject the idea of Lochaber becoming Scotland's latest Business Improvement District (BID).

It would have been the UK's biggest geographical BID, stretching from Glencoe to Knoydart, with local businesses paying a levy to be invested in mutually benefical projects .

Those with business properties with a rateable value of at least £2000 were eligible, with a vote for each property. But at the count in Fort William yesterday it was revealed that of the 950 potential votes, only 553 were cast with 418 against and 135 in favour.

According to its supporters, had the BID had been approved, more than half of businesses would have had to pay under £200 a year towards a levy, but at the top end it was to have been £4100 for those with a rateable value over £300,000.

Over a period of five years, it was projected to raise £1.8 million, to deliver key projects along with other funding.

Frazer Coupland, Chair of Living Lochaber, which was leading the BID team, said: "It is disappointing that members of Lochaber's business community have voted against bringing a BID to Lochaber."

A critic of the idea, Fort William businessman Stewart MacLean, said "We have been highlighting the flaws in the BID business plan. But people weren't voting on a detailed plan. It really was only ever a wish list."

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