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PIC: Rory Flyn/Dualchas

A proposed £6 million world-class St Kilda Visitor Centre at Mangersta, Uig has formally invited Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to comment on the plans in advance of a full planning application.

The screening application is a major milestone for the Ionad Hiort, which has been in design development since 2016.

The plans submitted to the Comhairle outline the proposals for a 660-square-metre clifftop visitor centre at Geodha Sgoilt. The proposed centre will include an exhibition area and a viewing room, with an outlook over the Atlantic towards St. Kilda.

The screening submission aims to obtain formal feedback on the current visitor centre proposals from the Comhairle’s planning department and statutory consultees. Their feedback will inform the submission of a full consent application.

The notification notes that screening the proposals at this stage is deemed necessary “given the unique landscape” of the proposed visitor centre.

In their submitted mission statement, the Comhairle is informed: “Ionad Hiort /the St Kilda Centre will be a world-class visitor centre situated at the Geodha Sgoilt, a spectacular cliff-top location on the Atlantic coast of southwest Lewis. The Centre will tell the stories of St Kilda, its history, traditions, language and culture, respectfully and creatively, from the perspective of its people.”

The centre’s design will reference St Kildan and North Atlantic architectural heritage. It will principally be a Gaelic centre and showcase digital and multimedia interpretation, immersive experiences, and performances.

The Centre will also provide access to St Kilda-related literature and research.

Part of the proposal includes environmental and wildlife interpretation via on-site pathways and World War Two heritage interpretation incorporated into upgraded extant wartime buildings.

An earlier design proposal for the visitor centre was granted in principle planning consent in 2019. However, this initial building plan was put on ice without breaking the ground.

A new design team, comprising Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter and Dualchas Architects, was appointed in 2021. They have developed a design for a larger visitor centre.

In the planning screening submission lodged with the Comhairle, it is stated the design team and client have worked closely to balance the budget, brief and site demands. The new design retains many original 2016 Masterplan ideas but “resolves them in a more practical manner, whilst retaining exciting internal experiences and a connection to the forms and narrative of St Kilda.”

They add: “We believe that this is an economic, pragmatic and poetic proposal.”