18th May 2022

Upper Achintore – Delivering Residential Development in Magnificent Fort William


Tucked between a dramatic sea loch and a u-shaped glacial valley, Fort William combines magnificent landscapes and a fascinating history, much deserving of its title as the outdoor capital of the UK.

Glen Nevis begins near the northern end of the town and wraps itself around the southern flanks of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis but even in such picturesque surroundings, Fort William suffers from a housing shortage, limiting the number of people who are able to live and work there.

Delivering for our client JR Construction, Civic Engineers have been appointed as Civil and Structural Engineers on a large, 319 home residential development in a suburb of Fort William called Upper Achintore.

Our role began back in 2019 and with an upland moorland location of the site and complex ground conditions, it’s been an interesting project for our team so far. The challenging topography in the shadows of Ben Nevis demanded the first phase of our support included a significant enabling works package to serve the entire development; including all roads, footways, drainage and utilities; inputting into the peat management strategy; substructure for all units; and completion of the 82 units that make-up the current first phase. Subsequent phases will build-out the remaining residential units.

Due to the significant slope and level change across the site, as well as the presence of peat, the foundation strategy required detailed analysis of proposed levels, borehole and trial pit records. This resulted in different foundation solutions including shallow strips, trench fill and piles but allowing for a consistent platform to support the timber kit superstructure. The exposed location also meant significant wind loadings and, as the timber kit designers, we undertook a full site wind load assessment for each block to allow the timber frame design to be as efficient as possible.

From an early-stage stakeholder consultation was key, working together with additional partners LUC, Armour Construction Consultants, JR Group and Link Group, to agree on areas that were simply non-developable and work around other key constraints to the development such as historic flooding to downstream catchments.  Through detailed consultation with SEPA and the Highland Council flooding officer, we were able to develop a strategy which, in addition to fulfilling the requirement of sustainable drainage, provided reassurance to the key stakeholders that existing problems would not be exacerbated.

The homes are due for a phased handover by 2024, with the five-zone masterplan currently seeing zone 2 and 5 in construction and due for completion next year. Given the complexity of the site and to maintain the project programme, we are collaborating closely with JR Group, Link Group, TSL, WGC, LUC and Mast Architects. All current zones in construction phase will be social housing with the hope future units will follow suit. With a mixture of cosy cottage homes, houses and flats, 10% of this current phase will include ground floor wheelchair accessible flats.

With much talk of new businesses eyeing up moves to base themselves at the idyllic location, the Upper Achintore scheme looks set to provide much-needed, sustainable and affordable homes for the community of Fort William. We look forward to our continued work on this exciting development.

Upper Achintore – Delivering Residential Development in Magnificent Fort William