A new support fund has been launched to help people, community groups and businesses develop sustainable infrastructure in the North Highlands following record numbers of visitors to the region, which includes the North Coast 500 route.

Set up by the North Highland Initiative and Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), the Community Infrastructure Support Programme (CISP) will offer grants of up to £1,000 to communities in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross & Cromarty.

These grants will be accessible to organisations that have been unable to receive other Government support packages and those ineligible for emergency grants.

Funding will address priorities such as litter and waste capacity, environmental improvements including public toilets and motorhome waste, creation of designated visitor parking areas and more effective signage and public information boards for visitors.

A key focus of the scheme will be supporting Initiatives that can demonstrate a focus on the development of sustainable and ‘green’ infrastructure in the region.

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Successful applications will fall into the North Highland Initiative’s primary areas of activity; food and farming, tourism and community support and leadership.

CISP comes following the success of the North Highland Initiative’s Community Support Scheme, set up to help local communities during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The Community Support Scheme distributed key funding to over 50 projects in the North Highlands and continues to work with communities across the region.

Applications are now open and will be considered in the coming months. Applications will close when all of the funding has been allocated.

HeraldScotland: David Whiteford and June Love.David Whiteford and June Love.

David Whiteford, chair of the North Highland Initiative, said: "In 2020, North Highland Initiative and DSRL partnered up to offer funding to businesses that hadn’t been able to benefit for government financial support or emergency loans in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Now we are turning our attention to our environment which has never been more important. We’ve seen record numbers of visitors travel to the North Highlands over the past 12 months which has highlighted the areas that need developing to support the travel industry and local communities.

“The new CISP funding is aimed to support local businesses and communities that are investing in sustainable services that will support the tourism industry and local economy. From the maintenance of private eco campsites, to designated waste disposal locations and educational materials for people visiting the area, we’re looking to hear from businesses making a real difference in their region.”

The North Highland Initiative (NHI) was established in 2005 as a direct result of His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay’s involvement in bringing together the farming community, local businesses and the tourism industry to address the challenges facing rural communities in the far north of Scotland. The NHI also works to build and develop a regional identity for the area.

June Love, community relations manager at Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), said: "We are delighted to be working with the North Highland Initiative again. In 2020, we worked together to fund community projects in response to the initial coronavirus outbreak and saw first-hand how small grants can make a big difference.

“Tourism accounts for a significant number of jobs in Caithness and North Sutherland and the success of the industry is critical to the area going forward.” 

DSRL is responsible for decommissioning the Dounreay site in Caithness on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. A significant local employer for decades, it is working with community partners to help create sustainable alternative employment in the region beyond its clean-up mission, when highly-skilled jobs at the nuclear facility are expected to reduce.

CISP will not support applications from statutory organisations, individuals or projects out with the North Highland region.

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