A new centre designed to be at the heart of a Wester Ross community is officially opening its doors today (Tue 29 May).
Local community group, Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE), have opened the state of the art GALE Centre at Achtercairn in Gairloch which will provide a range of facilities for both visitors and locals.
GALE already runs a whole host of community projects including the local tourist information centre on behalf of VisitScotland, a community website, a weekly market, an annual horticultural and craft show and a photography project for people in Wester Ross with mental health illnesses.
The building will house a range of GALE's projects and will include office accommodation, gallery space for local artists and craft producers and exhibition space for community groups and local businesses.
Janet Miles, General Manager for GALE, said: "The Centre is really a celebration and showcase of all things local to the Gairloch and Loch Ewe area. As well as hosting the Tourist Information Centre, we will focus on promoting local producers, showcasing local products and celebrating local talent as well as taking pride in the wealth of natural beauty and assets of our area."
The purchase of the land and construction of the £800,000 GALE Centre was funded by £65,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and additional local community fundraising. The community was also awarded a Big Lottery Fund grant of £439,057 to enable them to expand their range of community projects and services. £190,000 was also granted to the project by LEADER.
Lindsay Simpson, of HIE, said: "We have been working with GALE for quite some time now and their original base was too small and generally unsuitable for all the ambitious projects they undertake. The new GALE Centre provides space for the group to expand while also allowing other groups and locals to use it too. GALE have already formed a new partnership with the West Highland College Learning Centre, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands network of learning centres across the Highlands and Islands. "
The GALE Centre is designed with environmental sustainability as a priority, using renewable energy and energy saving technology. The building is the first community building in the UK to be built to Passive standards - a very well insulated, virtually airtight building which minimises energy loss and saves up to 90% of heating costs.
The building has a sedum roof - which are also known as living or green roofs - and use plant life instead of slate or other traditional roofing materials. They provide extra insulation while also helping to cool the building in summer - lowering the need for air conditioning. They also reduce noise within the building, such as the sound of rainfall on the roof - and act as small microclimates for wildlife.
Behind the GALE Centre are raised beds which will be used for a community growing project using permaculture techniques, which is all about living our lives in harmony with nature.