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Highland Council announces £1bn construction plan

Scotland's Highland Council has announced details of a long-term construction plan, with almost £1 billion set to be invested over the next ten years.

Council leaders have drawn up a finance model that sets out a firm five-year investment programme worth £470 million, with an indicative programme of the same size also on the table.

The initiative will provide a major boost for the region's economy, with up to 500 new jobs created during the first five years. Many of the new positions will go to young workers recruited through the council's recently announced shared apprenticeship scheme.

Councillor Drew Hendry, the leader of the authority, described the announcement as "very exciting" and said the plans "have the potential to transform our economy". 

He added: "We can deliver this commitment by moving to a ten-year capital programme and allocating levels of annual investment on capital projects far beyond anything achieved before."

Deputy leader David Alston said: "Capital expenditure on this level is a commitment to the future of the Highlands and an indication of the key role of local government is setting the direction for the region."

The Inverness-based council, which has also announced the appointment of Steve Barron as its new chief executive, said it will increase borrowing at a cost of £2.5 million per year to finance this additional capital investment.

In March, statistics from the Scottish government revealed that 2012 saw the number of new housing starts increase for the first time since 2006. 

Work on a total of 13,830 new homes got underway in the 12 months to September 2012, up 11 per cent from the 12,427 started during the previous 12-month period. 

In addition, the number of council houses completed in the 2012 calendar year rose by 27 per cent, passing 1,000 for the first time since 1991. 

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