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Fort William 2040: better proposals, better outcomes

This project provides an example of where wider community engagement on placemaking as part of the Fort William 2040 project coincided with engagement on a particularly significant development for the Fort William community. With major plans to expand their aluminium smelter operation, Alvance British Aluminium (formerly known as Liberty) – one of Fort William’s biggest employers – decided to invest in early community engagement to support submission of their planning application. From the company’s perspective, that engagement enabled them to get the message out to the community about what they wanted to do and the benefits that it would bring.

Benefits of engagement

The company found the engagement very helpful in a number of ways. Firstly, it helped them to understand that not everyone was in favour. Responses ranged from ‘when can you start?’ to ‘we don’t want you here’. That was useful to know early on. The engagement also enabled some aspects of the initial proposals to be improved. For example, travel to work: the community was concerned that the town gets very congested in the summer, so discussions about traffic helped the company think differently how it could potentially use the port and the rail network more effectively to move its materials around, which could lead to fewer truck movement on local roads.

Allaying concerns

Early engagement also helped to dispel some people’s fears about the visual impact of the proposals, as the site is at the bottom of Ben Nevis. In response to these concerns, the company used a 3D model to show the relative size of the proposed new operation and how it would fit into the landscape. That helped to alleviate people’s fears. Another benefit was that Liberty’s engagement was complemented by a comprehensive community and stakeholder engagement exercise about the town as a whole: Fort William 2040, led by public sector partners (Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Highland Council). This was a response to the scale and pace of change that developments might bring to the town and the need for a coordinated approach to their delivery.

What's next

The benefits of early community engagement on the smelter proposal are, therefore, now having a positive impact on the future of the town as a whole, as a town-wide community vision aims to deliver more coordinated investment and better outcomes for people in Fort William and Lochaber.

Find out more

For more information, please visit the 'Fort William 2040: A Masterplan and Delivery Programme for Fort William and Lochaber' website

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