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Enthusiastic welcome for Dunbeath and District Centre’s wellbeing hub despite ‘bizarre’ objection Published on 25th July 2024

Check out this article in the Northern Times >>Click Here<<

News that a £1 million health and wellbeing hub in Dunbeath can go ahead after getting planning permission sparked joy from those behind the move.

However, Dunbeath and District Centre admitted they now face an uphill battle for funding.

Highland councillors were falling over one another to praise the community project that aims to improve and expand on what is already offered at the current hub with a brand new building able to accommodate more people. The so-called Jigsaw Project aims to retain the current building and construct a new one for to offer social clubs, bingo, yoga and arts and crafts, lunch club, outreach meal delivery service and community food larder.There will be classes and events for the elderly but other services will involve all age groups as well as providing a degree of health-based services such as virtual consultations and physiotherapy.

However, Berriedale and District Community Council raised a number of concerns – labelled “bizarre” by one councillor – including the environmental impact of allowing people from Wick and Thurso to attend. That appeared in its objection list of four “material” planning considerations alongside over-development of the site due to traffic and parking; no pre-application consultation with the community and the building overpowering the area. But council leader and local Caithness member Raymond Bremner said: “I see it as a real improvement on the amenity. I am aware that the local community council have made their objections known about this but I think the planning officer has correctly stated the mitigations.”

He added: “I would be happy, more than happy, to approve this. And good luck to applicants.”

Sarah Atkin, who represents the Black Isle ward, said: “I would definitely support this, I think it is absolutely fantastic, I love the concept, I think it is a brilliant idea and I want one in my ward, basically. It is exactly what we need to be doing in my opinion with health and well-being.”

Cllr Matthew Reiss, also from Caithness, backed the project, saying: “It is not every day that Cllr Bremner and I agree, but I do want to agree with him because he is absolutely right. This is, no holds barred, absolutely fantastic.

“And to be completely honest, the bizarre comment from the community council that maybe it is not correct for people from Wick and Thurso to attend – really? It is a county that we all travel around.”

Daniel Macleod, operational growth manager at the hub, said: “The management team at Dunbeath and District Centre are delighted with the decision made by Highland councillors at their committee meeting, granting planning permission for our Jigsaw Project – the erection of a replacement Health and Wellbeing Hub on land adjacent to our existing premises.

“Since June 2021, the team have been on a rollercoaster ride pushing the project forward. Unwavering support and enthusiasm from the community of the south-east of Caithness, stakeholders and external professionals has led to this significant point in the project.

“The current economic climate makes the next phase, fundraising, particularly difficult and challenging.

“After the champagne has been drunk and the euphoria has settled, the hard work begins again – this positive outcome takes the project into the new year on a high.

“On behalf of Dunbeath and District Centre, I fully thank everyone who has showed their support for our project and we do hope you continue following us further on our journey to fruition.”

The design team comprising Oberlanders Architects, Rybka Service Engineers, Fairhurst Structural Engineers and WSD Cost said: “We are delighted with the outcome of the planning decision and look forward to working with the Dunbeath and District Centre to deliver the Jigsaw Project which will create a new health and wellbeing hub for the community.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed working with the project team to date and are excited by the possibility of bringing the project to fruition.”

An artist's impression of the new wellbeing hub

Dunbeath & District Centre would not exist if it wasn't for the generous support of the following funders

Dunbeath & District Centre
7 Neil Gunn Road

Tel:01593 731335