Review for March 18, 2011-03-18

THERE have been mixed feelings about efforts to revitalise Wick and Thurso town centres. Charged with the task was Wick man, Alan Steven, appointed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce on a two-year mission. The 120,000 project has been generally well received by a cross-section of local traders, according to the paper’s P1 lead, but worries persist as to what can actually be done to revive the two town centres’ flagging fortunes.

ANOTHER man going it alone, is Captain’s Galley chef, Jim Cowie who is fed up at the losing battle he appears to be waging against litter louts tarnishing the village’s environment. He became so tired of seeing rubbish in the village, that he organised a solo clean up. However, no sooner that he had removed the litter, than the problem returned. He is particularly aggrieved at people throwing rubbish from cars as they drive through Watten.

IN a third story on the same page, members of the public are being invited to take a Sunday afternoon stroll through an archaeology-rich part of Caithness, which, it is claimed, would be devastated if the green light is given to a commercial wind farm. RWE npower renewables is seeking consent to put up nine turbines on farmland at Burn of Whilk, near Thrumster. Objectors claim the development would blight what is acknowledged as one of the best-preserved and extensive archaeological sites in the country. Sunday’s walk along the Yarrows trail, starting at 1pm, is being organised on the eve of the firm’s planning application going before Highland councillors.

INSIDE there’s a further story on energy...a bid is being made to establish the UK’s first marine energy park in Caithness. The move which has the support of local MP John Thurso and bodies such as the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership, would result in research and development manufacturing and other marine energy expertise being focused in the Far North. The Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP is keen to press the case with the climate-change minister and hopes he will visit the area in the summer.

YET another power story concerns an up-beat message from a former enterprise chief who has predicated offshore renewable can create an economic boom in the Highland and Islands comparable to the impact made by oil and gas in the Aberdeen area. Sandy Cumming believes up to 5,000 people will be working in offshore wind and marine energy in the region, once the industry becomes fully operational ,from around 2020 onwards, with communities in the Inner Moray Firth, Caithness and Northern Isles and the Western Isles, among those reaping the benefits.

THERE won’t be any shortage of drama, in the county, next weekend, when Wick will be a focus for the Highland divisional final in the SCDA’s festival of one-act plays. Six amateur dramatics clubs will take part in the event, each hoping to win one of two places in the Scottish final, which, this year, is being held at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness from May 5 to 7. Local hopefuls at the Assembly Rooms on March 25 and 26 are Thurso Players who will present Chinaman, by Michael Frayn, directed by Audrey O’ Brien, which won through from the district heats held in Thurso at the end of last month.

TALKS about improvements to the A9 at Berriedale are said to be progressing positively. Keith Brown, Scottish Transport Minister and Hugh Gillies, an official from Transport Scotland, met community representatives at Holyrood, last week to discuss proposals to carry out work at the notorious braes. The meeting was arranged by Far North MSP Jamie Stone and addressed the county’s socioeconomics, road safety and the reduction of transport times. It was said to be productive by those who attended and the transport minister explained he would look into the proposal further.

A TOP-RANKED young local athlete, Natasha Morris is heading for Portugal at the end of the month to take part in warm-weather training, ahead of the Commonwealth Games 2014. Caithness Amateur Athletics Club discus thrower, Natasha Morris, will travel to Monte Gordo to take part in a two-week Scottish Athletics’ Development Countdown Camp, along with other leading Scottish athletes.