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Community meeting with Heart 200 bosses is step towards improved relationship

Heart 200 is a tourist trail around Perthshire and Stirlingshire.
Heart 200 is a tourist trail around Perthshire and Stirlingshire.

A fraught relationship between Highland Perthshire residents and the creators of a new tourism initiative is thawing after a productive meeting.

Glen Lyon and Loch Tay Community Council (GLLTCC), along with representatives from neighbouring Kenmore and District Community Council (KDCC) met with Heart 200’s director Robert Cairns.

The two community councils, who helped compile the report on Perth and Kinross Council’s handling of a £45,000 grant to the tourism enterprise which was sent to Audit Scotland this summer, met with the representative in  September, months after the company officially launched.

The route has already been adjusted due to fears the project would drive huge amounts of traffic through the winding infrastructure of Highland Perthshire.

The initiative markets a 200-mile route through Perthshire, Stirling and the Trossachs as a road trip for tourists.

After months of voicing concerns, the group eventually met with the firm’s managing director at a private meeting, prior to the groups’ ordinary community council meetings and the groups are beginning to build bridges.

GLLTCC chairwoman Susan Dolan-Betney said: “Ourselves and KDCC have been acting jointly on behalf of the community in Highland Perthshire, and it was them who organised the meeting with Mr Cairns.

“We were very keen to see a meeting with Heart 200 and eventually it happened. It was a good meeting and they listened to the points we put across.

“They were very keen to stress that it is meant to be a slow tourism initiative and get away from the fly-by tourist image that is associated with the North Coast 500.

“A lot of what we said was taken on board and they have agreed to make changes to the website.”

Whilst still wary of the scheme, Ms Dolan-Betney  welcomed the improved communication and the group are keen to continue dialogue.

“I’m still not relaxed about it and all our previous arguments still stand, but it is something that needs monitoring,” she said.

“We’ve been invited to be on a committee which is involved with the website, which will help provide a bit of insight for us. It’s a very generous offer and we are quite willing to get involved.”

Heart 200’s management declined to comment, other than to say the meeting had been very positive.

Audit Scotland has confirmed it will come to a conclusion on whether to launch a full-scale investigation into the allocation of funding to the company later this month.

A spokesperson said: “We have received correspondence on this issue which we are now assessing as part of our standard audit work.

“We’ll be responding in the next few weeks.”

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