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Massive boost for Newburgh seal tourism project

By David Porter

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The Newburgh Seal Viewing Project is one of several funding recipients announced today as part of a £3m boost from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF).

The seal haul out point at Newburgh is a popular destination for tourists. Picture: Ron Macdonald
The seal haul out point at Newburgh is a popular destination for tourists. Picture: Ron Macdonald

A grant award of £130,500 from from the fund is part of an overall funding package of £273,000 for the upgrade of the car park.

The other funding in the shape of £100,000 comes from the Crown Estate Coastal Communities Fund administered by Aberdeenshire Council, £30,000 from NatureScot and £10,000 from Visit Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and Foveran Community Council.

Isobel Davidson, chairwoman of the Newburgh and Ythan Community Trust who are behind the project said: “We are delighted to receive this award from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund towards improving the car park and interpretation at Beach Road, Newburgh.

"Newburgh beach and the seal haul-out are a fantastic asset to the area and attract thousands of tourists.

"It is important that we improve the facilities and interpretation to encourage people to the South side of the estuary where they can enjoy the wonderful landscapes and wildlife without disturbing the seal colony.

"Our long term aim is to ensure that people of all abilities can experience the nature of north-east Scotland.

"The Newburgh and Ythan Community Trust was formed by a group of local people to promote the history and heritage of this corner of the county.”

The Trust now hope work will begin in the late spring and summer and will also be applying for funds to create the new all abilities path and viewing platform and the replacement of the existing boardwalk with an aggregate path and the repair of erosion around the existing viewing platform as Phase 2 of the project.

MP for Gordon Richard Thomson commented: “I’m delighted by this news.

"The grant is recognition of the long-standing community efforts behind the project to develop the Seal ‘haul out’ as an attraction.

“This is really good news for Newburgh and I extend my congratulations and my thanks to all involved."

Elsewhere in Aberdeenshire a partnership project between Aberdeenshire Council and NatureScot to upgrade and expand the car parking at St Cyrus NNR to provide an additional 40 parking spaces for cars and motorhomes received £201, 925.

The project includes refurbishment of the toilets to include a changing places standard toilet, and provision of additional cycling racks, EV charge points and a chemical disposal point.

Ben Ross, NatureScot Head of Nature Reserves, said of the project in Aberdeenshire: “St Cyrus is one of the richest and most diverse National Nature Reserves in Britain so it is no surprise that it is extremely popular with visitors.

“Like many of our beauty spots, last year saw an increase in the number of people coming to the reserve to enjoy the great outdoors.

“This funding will help to ensure the facilities at St Cyrus are better able to meet that increased demand in future, helping more people to connect with nature at this special place.”

Managed by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the RTIF was created to improve the quality of the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland that have faced pressure on their infrastructure due to this increase in visitor numbers.

It aims to reduce the impact of visitor numbers on local communities and facilities and create a more collaborative and sustainable approach to infrastructure provision and long-term maintenance of local facilities for the benefit of communities, when it is safe to welcome back visitors.

Round three was open for applications from local authorities and National Park authorities, in partnership with their communities and saw a total of 66 expressions of interest.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “While the tourism industry is currently halted due to the national lockdown and the need to keep supressing coronavirus, it’s essential we continue supporting our tourism businesses, especially in rural and remote areas, so they are in the best position possible for welcoming visitors again when conditions allow.

“The Rural Tourism and Infrastructure Fund is key to supporting critical tourism projects in our more remote areas.

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief executive, said: “We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and improvement works like these are crucial to ensuring our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.

"This funding will help local communities improve their facilities, as well as enhancing the visitor experience both for now and in the future when conditions are right and it is safe to do so.

“Tourism is a force for good and if managed responsibly, sustains communities in every corner of Scotland, creates jobs, tackles depopulation and improves the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.

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