I spent yesterday afternoon showing a group of German university students around Kinlochleven to explain how the village has benefited from rural regeneration programmes over the last decade. For over 90 years, Kinlochleven was an important aluminium manufacturing base with the British Aluminium Company smelter and factory dominating the village, the local economy and community life. Its closure in the late 1990s could have resulted in disaster for the village without the company working in partnership with the Highland Council and Highland and Islands Enterprise to find ways of regenerating the village and pave the way for an alternative future.

The creation of the Ice Factor and what is now the Atlas Brewery, along with a small business complex in the centre of the village certainly made a difference in securing the villages future. However, they made lot of mistakes along the way, particularly with community involvement. That has changed in recent years with local residents being in the majority on the Kinlochleven Community Trust, of which I am now the Chairman. The Trust has also changed direction away from just economic development to encompass wider environmental and sustainability aspects as well. We want to regenerate some of the neglected areas of the village, transferring the land from Alcan to the community, so that we can attract more visitors and tourists to the area. We don’t do enough to "blow our own trumpet" and promote all the opportunities for visitors not just in the village but in the great countryside on our doorstep. One of my pet projects is to not only promote but upgrade and widen the path network in and around the village and also introduce elements of heritage interpretation as well.

It’s hardwork but immensely rewarding and slowly we are making a difference.

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