NHT Board Decision on the Proposed Purchase of the Scalpay School Site

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NHT Board Decision on the Proposed Purchase of the Scalpay School Site.

Back in 2014 the Comhairle offered the vacant Scalpay School Site to NHT.  To allow time for NHT to gather information and decide on whether to purchase and develop the site, a short-term lease was signed.  NHT has operated the site under the terms of this lease for nearly four years now.  The buildings have been sublet at a very low rate to 7 local artists, craft producers and builders.  It was always understood that this was a temporary arrangement and last summer the Comhairle made it clear that NHT would need to decide on the purchase by the end of April 2018. 

Whilst administering the site, NHT commissioned a condition report and kept a record of suggestions for site use and requests for space.  More recently a feasibility study was commissioned and a business plan prepared.  During preparation of the business plan the Scalpay Community were invited to contribute ideas and give their views on the school site purchase.

With the information gathered, NHT has seriously considered the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing the Scalpay School site; in terms of its potential social and economic impact on Scalpay and in terms of NHT’s ability to finance, deliver and maintain the development long term.

As the deadline is now upon us, NHT has decided not to go ahead with the purchase of the Scalpay School Site.  This decision was principally based on the following reasoning:

The title deeds show that the ball park area and a strip of land running through the centre of the site are not included in the sale.  This could be resolved, but will take time and additional purchase and legal fees.

The Schoolhouse, which is attached to the main school building, is not included in the sale.  This was always understood, but limits what can be done with the main school building.  For example, the main building cannot be demolished to make way for another development without making good the exposed gable of the Schoolhouse (cost estimated at £200,000).

According to the Condition Survey, the original part of the main building is structurally sound and the canteen is in reasonably good condition, but the extensions to the Main building and the two other outbuildings are in poor condition.  Overall the cost of essential repairs to deal with asbestos and making the buildings weatherproof are estimated at £91,000. To re-wire, insulate and re-decorate would take the estimated bill to over £200,000.

The feasibility study and business plan considered ideas from NHT and the local community including the creation of business space, workshop space, storage, campervan hook-ups, shared/community space and housing.  The preferred option was estimated to cost £1.2million.

Although the business plan demonstrated a scenario whereby the site could generate a small income, this was based on generous grant aid, and high occupancy at high commercial rents.

The funds required to make the buildings safe for use and to carry out urgent repairs are beyond what NHT can fund independently and the prospects of securing the grant aid required to fully refurbish the site are currently bleak.  Even with grants, the contribution required from the Trust would be significant and would impact upon the other the Trust activities.

Apart from the current tenants, there has been limited interest from the wider community regarding the future use of the site and a shortage of ideas that would generate income. Discussions with current and prospective tenants have indicated that few would be willing to take on the higher rents required to make the development sustainable.

NHT believes the option of purchasing the site and doing minimal improvement works is not realistic as the urgent repairs required are expensive and would need to be paid for by higher rents. 

There is already underutilised ‘community space’ within the existing Scalpay Community Centre and NHT would not wish to develop a competing facility.

Issues with the title deeds, poor condition of the buildings, lack of funding and inability to demonstrate that the development will be well used and viable all make purchasing and refurbishing Scalpay School too risky for NHT.  NHT will therefore withdraw from Scalpay School at the end of the current lease, in August 2018.  However, NHT would be interested in collaborating with interested agencies/parties to investigate potential strategies for development at the site.

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