Community sets sights on lighthouse buy-out

IT shone for almost two centuries as a beacon of both hope and warning for fishermen and RAF pilots on one of the most treacherous stretches of the Scottish coast.

But now, a month after the lights were finally dimmed on the iconic Covesea Skerries Lighthouse at Lossiemouth, the building is the focus of plans for one of Scotland’s most unusual community buy-outs.

The business association in the once bustling Moray fishing town is seeking public support for ambitious plans to buy the redundant navigational aid for the benefit of the town and to turn it into a heritage centre celebrating the importance of both the fishing industry and the Royal Air Force in the history of the town.

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The lighthouse, designed by Alan Stevenson, a member of the Stevenson engineering dynasty and uncle of the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, was erected on a headland overlooking the skerries rocks in 1846, following demands for action from mariners after 16 vessels were lost during a storm in the Moray Firth in November 1826.

Tony Rook, the chairman of the Lossiemouth Business Association, explained that he only discovered that the lighthouse had been decommissioned at a meeting last month with senior officers at the RAF base.

He said: “They asked what we were going to do about the lighthouse and we had no idea at the time that it had been declared redundant. But we quickly decided to try and do something with the building for the benefit of the whole community.

“Our biggest fear is that if the lighthouse goes into the hands of private developers it could become shoddy and not be maintained properly. And that would mean the loss of our most iconic building.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise Moray has agreed to fund a feasibility study to help take the community buy-out bid forward.

Rook said: “We want to see the building maintained and its facilities used for the benefit of the community as a major tourist attraction for the town.

“In a couple of years’ time, Lossie will be the only RAF base left in Scotland and we would like to preserve some of the history of the RAF in Scotland in the building. At the same time, the lighthouse itself has played a major part in guiding fishing folk, airmen and sailors home safely and we want to preserve and celebrate that as well.”

The business association is also hoping that the “wow” factor of the proposed heritage development will come from using the observation platform at the top of the 36-metre tower as a viewpoint for the Moray Firth’s dolphin population and other wildlife in the area.