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Wick River Campsite - A Great Success For Wick Development Trust

15th January 2024

Photograph of Wick River Campsite - A Great Success For Wick Development Trust

From Caithness Voluntary Group Facebook page about a great success for the volunteer run Wick Development Trust.

I thought I should do a post based on the recent post shared about the new facilities block at Wick River Campsite. For those that do not subscribe to the John O' Groats Journal online, you will only have been able to see the title of the news article which was "Work gets under way on £450,000 facilities block at Wick Campsite".

There have been a few comments questioning this so I thought I would take the opportunity to explain things for those that don't have access to the article. Wick River Campsite is run by Wick Development Trust as a not-for-profit community enterprise. This means that all profits generated by the campsite will get reinvested back into town centre regeneration and community projects within Wick, however, due to the condition of the campsite facilities when the Trust took it over in 2022 it was realised that the first three years profits would need to be reinvested back into the campsite to bring the facilities up to modern standards.

Phase 1 was carried out in the winter of 2022/2023 which included replacing the electric hook up bollards and more than doubling our previous capacity, building new onsite roads and additional hard standing pitches, installing new entrance gates and fence, putting up a childrens play area, picnic area and communal barbecue area.
Phase 2 was planned for this closed season during the winter of 2023/2024 to replace the old toilet block that was literally falling apart. A significant amount was spent trying to tidy up the toilets during phase 1 to see them through until phase 2 could start, but by the end of last years season they had started to subside at one corner and they were demolished before Christmas. During the summer months a huge amount of work was carried out by the Trust to complete the designs of the new building, obtain planning permission, and get together a funding package in what could only be described as record time.

The campsite profits from 2023 have been reinvested into phase 2 with the remaining funding coming from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Green Fund, Highland Community Regeneration Funding, Dounreay Socio-Economic Fund, Scottish Government CARES (Community and Renewable Energy Scheme), RWE Camster Wind Farm Community Fund and SSE Highland Sustainable Development Fund.

The new facilities have a floor plan of just under 200m² which will house male toilets with 6 shower cubicles measuring 2.6m long by 1.3m wide each which include the showering area and a changing area with bench seat, 4 toilet stalls, six vanity mount sinks, 4 urinals, plus hand dryers, soap dispensers mirrors etc. The female toilets will be to the exact same specification as the male toilets but with six toilet stalls and no urinals, and will also include hair dryers. Included with the building will be a large separate family shower room with family sized shower, toilet, sink, bench, and baby changing facilities. There is a wheelchair accessible toilet, with a separate wheelchair accessible shower room and toilet. Additionally, there is a laundry with two commercial washing machines, two commercial tumble dryers, laundry worktop space, a clothes wash sink, and a mobile phone charging kiosk. The wash up area has 4 kitchen sinks with ample worktop space for the users of the site.
To meet the criteria of the funds that were secured as well as the Trust's own drive towards protecting the environment, the building had to have Net Zero and sustainability built into the design from the forefront. This means the building is highly insulated, will have underfloor heating, Twin Air Source Heat Pumps which will heat not only the heating but the water as well. This has meant that a fairly complex heating system has had to be designed due to the anticipated high demand for hot water. Full LED lighting will be installed and Mechanical Heat Recovery & Ventilation is also being installed to capture the heat generated from the heating and people using the showers, to be recirculated back into the building thus making the Air Source Heat Pumps run more efficiently. To power this entire building and a large portion of the campsite, a 20.5kw photovoltaic array will be installed on the roof with lithium battery storage. With the exception of water useage, this new building should be net zero to heat, heat the water, and power the lighting, tumble dryers, washing machines etc. and will be an ECO building that the community can be proud of.

Phase 3 is planned to be delivered during the winter of 2024/2025 to replace the Reception building, and talks are already underway with the appointed architects, and funding is being applied for.

A survey was carried out amongst guests in 2023 and on average, £136 was spent in Wick per booking staying at the campsite. The campsite had over 5,000 bookings last year with almost 12,500 guests which equates to a potential boost to the local economy of over £680,000, and that is just in a single year. With the addition of the new facilities at the campsite it is hoped that it will attract more tourists to chose Wick as a destination rather than just passing through. The more people that stay, the more money that is spent in the local economy, and of course more profits the campsite can make which means more money being available to be spent on regeneration and community projects within Wick.

I hope that explains more clearly what the situation is and everyone can see the massive benefit the Wick River Campsite currently is to the local economy, but more importantly, the impact it will have to the community once the upgrades have been completed and it can start supporting the towns projects.


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