The popularity of traditional, handmade soaps has led the Fort William-based Highland Soap Company to grow rapidly – more than doubling sales in the past two years. As a result, they needed new, larger manufacturing premises to enable their business to expand to accommodate this ever-increasing market. Tucked in below Ben Nevis, the company were keen to retain their Highland base and loyal workforce.
Their major investor, Highland entrepreneur Angus MacDonald engaged Galbraith to develop a new facility in a well-positioned location on the site of the former British Alcan Recreation Club, which was part of Old Inverlochy Farm. In keeping with the rich farming heritage of the site, the desire was to create a mixed-use space combining the factory and visitor experience, farm-shop and café. Fort William is a popular tourist location and creating an attractive destination showcasing the artisan soap production would maximise the draw in the prominent edge of town location.
The multi-disciplinary team at Galbraith have a track record of taking all scales of development from concept to completion and operation. Our Project Management team has a dedicated Project Manager to drive all aspects of the feasibility, consents, design and construction process while maintaining a single point of contact for the client team. Pulling in both in-house and consultant expertise, the depth of experience covers everything from factories to cinemas, hotels to Highland lodges.
Galbraith prepared initial plans meeting the client brief which our in-house planning team successfully negotiated through the planning process. Given the history, location and local affection for the site, the work involved was extensive. The proximity to the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Inverlochy Castle and sitting within the historic Battle of Inverlochy battlefield site required detailed liaison with Historic Environment Scotland to preserve the rural nature of the site. Ecological surveys were commissioned and the resident bats rehomed under strict licence. Located off the A82, a Traffic Assessment was also required for the main entrance. Planning permission was granted in October 2019.
Initially it was hoped that some of the original farm building could be retained but a detailed investigation and survey by our Building Surveying department noted numerous defects resulting from decades of modifications to the original structure to suit the changing needs. The most economical solution was demolition, so consent to demolish the entire building was obtained. Earlier surveys had also revealed the presence of asbestos and following removal under licence, the entire building was razed to the ground in late 2019.
Work started immediately following demolition to prepare the ground, all under the watching brief of the archaeologists. Ayrshire contractors 3b Construction were appointed for the new build and Galbraith were leading the process to complete the building in time for the 2020 tourist season. However, all construction activities in Scotland were paused by the Scottish Government in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As soon as the restrictions are safely lifted, Galbraith looks forward to completing the works to reveal a truly stunning building, supporting a home grown Scottish business.