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North Mill Project An Example Of How To Attract Funding Into Region

10th July 2024

Photograph of North Mill Project An Example Of How To Attract Funding Into Region

A £4.9m project in Caithness to restore one of the last water-powered grain mills in Scotland has been hailed as a great example of how funding can be used to leverage more investment into the region.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) approved a £250,000 contribution to the project led by the John O'Groats Mill Trust to restore the disused John O'Groats Mill, which it acquired in 2020 along with two adjacent holiday cottages and 9.5 acres of land.

The HIE contribution completed the funding package by leveraging a further £3.6m national investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£1.6m), Scottish Government (£1.5m), and Historic Environment Scotland (£0.5m).

SSE Highland Sustainable Fund, Stroupster Windfarm, and Wolfson Foundation have also provided funding for the project.

Eann Sinclair, HIE’s area manager for Caithness and Sutherland, said:

"In the context of very challenging public sector budgets, we have to work extra hard to secure additional investment into the region. This project is a great example of where our relatively modest contribution was able to complete the funding package and attract significant additional investment from public and private sector sources."

The mill is around a mile from John O’Groats village and straddles the A836 on the North Coast 500 route. After acquiring the asset, the Trust installed a path between the mill and the John O’Groats car park to improve links with the village. It has also been generating income from the cottages.

This latest project to restore the Grade 2 listed mill will create a social and heritage hub for the local community as well as a new tourist attraction to encourage visitors to stay longer in the area. It will support local jobs, during the renovation and then later in operating the new centre, and make a valuable contribution to the local economy.

Local contractor O’Brien Construction is carrying out the work on the mill, which will take around a year to complete. Where possible, the firm is using natural materials and traditional construction methods.

A part of the project, the water wheel system that powers the mill’s machinery is being repaired and, once complete, will be used to help visitors find out more about this form of renewable energy.

The John O’Groats Mill Trust is closely aligned to the John O’Groats Development Trust, complementing activity to realise local ambitions.

Rognvald Brown, Chairman of the John O'Groats Mill Trust, said:

"Works on site have been continuing at a rapid pace, but that does not mean that we have skimped on quality.  The whole project is being done to a high conservation standard in order to preserve the existing heritage whilst making it accessible to future generations. 

“This work, which is employing a local construction company, would not be possible without the support from our funders including Highlands and Islands Enterprise who helped us close the final gap in our funding package."

Eann Sinclair added, "This community-led project is a vital addition to the suite of investments that over the past 15 years have transformed the area through the John O’Groats Masterplan. When we led the regeneration of the land around the former John O Groats House Hotel in 2009 few predicted the number of new businesses that would subsequently locate to the iconic harbour area. The physical connection between the Mill complex and the revitalised harbour area further enhances the John O Groats brand and we hope it may lead to further development potential in the coming years.”


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