Portree’s rise to prominence as a community owes much to its history as a port. Today Portree and in particular its waterfront has become an internationally recognised destination for land and seaborne visitors. This year there will be more than thirty passenger liners bringing visitors and the footfall on the pier and access roads will remain at a very high level throughout the summer months. Many of us in the community are in jobs that are directly or indirectly related to our success in attracting and pleasing visitors.
Besides visitors, the harbour plays host to many local users; from professional fishermen and fish farmers to the RNLI, tour boat operators, local yachtsmen, dinghy sailors, anglers and the mooring association. Each of these groups want specific things and the task of providing those rests with the Highland Council as harbour authority and, to an extent, the Crown Estate as owner of much of the seabed.
Developing the harbour in step with the needs has not been a priority for Highland Council. Taken altogether, for Highland Council, the harbour income matches the expenditure and there’s little incentive to move beyond that.
The need for something better was not lost on us as a community. A previous attempt to move to community management of the harbour assets made good progress but fell at the last hurdle when previously encouraging political support waned. This left a bitter taste for those involved and a good idea has lain dormant now for a long time.
What follows in the PDF file is an outline plan, developed in 2016 by the Portree and Braes Trust to increase the community involvement in the management and ultimately perhaps the ownership of the defining social asset in Portree, its harbour. Since this plan was produced a Development Officer has been appointed. and positive discussions are ongoing regarding delivery of the plan.
" A Vision for Portree Harbour 2018" has more recently been produced, also available to view below, which demonstrates the improvements that the Trust are looking to deliver on behalf of the local community. To take this vision forward an up-to-date Masterplan and Outline Business Case are now required. In all successful harbour developments professional expertise has been brought in at an early stage to deliver a master planning process. Alongside securing the support of the local community and council members, this as a vital first step in progressing the project. Through commissioning these studies PBCT will build a robust case for improving the harbour, outlining benefits to the local area and wider highlands and islands, ensuring that the local community are thoroughly consulted and detailing a phased development that will be financially and environmentally sustainable.
In a recent assessment of 14 Highland Town Centre's Portree finished bottom. The report, which was carried out by the Highland Council and can be viewed here, was especially critical of the condition of the streets and pavements and pedestrian and cycling friendliness. As outlined in the 2018 Vision, regeneration of the harbour and pedestrianisation of the pier head would significantly improve the quality, safety and the accessibility of Portree centre. The Trust hope that the results of this assessment will further demonstrate the scale of investment that is now required to improve local infrastructure.