Today saw the arrival of the new Water Treatment Works serving Govig, through to Huisinis. After years of lobbying and hours spent poring over croft maps with various Scottish Water consultants, the Trust can now see the results of its efforts.
Last night two landing craft delivered a crane and two pre-fabricated plant buildings onto the beach at Huisinis. The crane lifted the two units up onto the road to be conveyed to the construction sites, back towards Govig. The pre-fab units were too large to pass under the arch at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle.
Scottish Water is investing £4.5M in 3.7miles of new pipework, a water treatment plant and a storage tank. This will improve the reliability of the water supply to the villages at the far west of the estate. It will put an end to tankers delivering water from Stornoway to top up the reservoirs every other day in high season.
The North Harris Trust will continue to lobby for upgrades in the remaining villages in the west of the estate where future developments are restricted by reliance upon local boreholes and streams.
We have just received the final version of the feasibility study into new, affordable housing on a site at Ardvourlie. Porteous Architecture has worked with its partners to design an attractive scheme that makes the most of the landscape and views. The Engineer and Quantity Surveyor however have put a damper on things by costing the project at well over £1M.
We have tried a larger scheme of 8x 2 and 3-bed houses to get the price down per unit. We have tried a 4 unit scheme to reduce the roads and services, to get the price down. Whatever we’ve done, we are looking at c£250K per house according to the professionals. Despite positive first impressions, it’s proving an expensive site to develop. The Rural Housing Fund grants for affordable homes are about £100K per unit– leaving a large gap to fill.
The plan now is to ask Highland Small Community Housing Trust to go over the figures and make sure there are no glaringly obvious mistakes. They have far more experience developing social housing than us. Finally, we somehow have to get the message over to the Scottish Government, that it’s more expensive to build here than their funding scheme will allow!
INTO PROVISION OF NEW BUSINESS PREMISES IN NORTH HARRIS
It was recently announced that Highlands & Islands Enterprise is supporting a Market Assessment and Feasibility Study for The North Harris Trust (NHT), into the provision of new business premises in North Harris. Following its completion of the Iomairt an Obain business development, NHT now wishes to build on this success, encouraging other businesses to create more local employment opportunities.
The contract was
awarded to SKS Scotland, who are carrying out an initial survey to determine
demand for any newly-constructed premises.
Calum MacKay, Chair of
The North Harris Trust said; “This is an excellent opportunity for any
businesses on Harris or nearby to give their opinion about what is needed and
what they want to see in Harris. The
survey is also relevant for people who would be interested in starting up their
own business but currently feel limited by lack of appropriate space or other
May 1st saw a good turn out of local residents at the Scaladale Centre. The Trust is working on a number of initiatives in the area and this was an opportunity to share its plans. A number of staff and directors were present to give details and collect feedback and and concerns.
Projects discussed on the night were:
The Ardvourlie Housing Project – Affordable Homes for rent
Ardvourlie Woodland Observatory
Ardvourlie/Bowglas Mountain Bike Trails
Visitor Facilities/Cafe at the Ardvourlie Woodland car park
Enquiry for land for business use
The meeting was generally very positive about the developments being discussed. It’s acknowledged that the Ardvourlie Woodland is an overlooked community asset that more could be made of.
Funding has been secured for the Woodland Observatory. Work is due to start in July.
The Mountain Bike Trails are still at a Feasibility stage, so work will now need to be done to investigate how it could be funded.
Both developments will bring additional visitors to this quieter corner of Harris. The need for visitor facilities like additional parking was raised as a concern and will be addressed as the projects develop.
It is hoped that these individual initiatives will together make a positive impact on the local economy. Local businesses will benefit from the extra footfall and Harris as a whole will benefit form the redistribution of visitor numbers.
An exciting Monday at NHT today as we welcome our new Ranger,
Michael Hunter to the team. Michael is quickly finding his feet and will be out
and about in community in the coming days and weeks so if you see him be sure to
say hello. Michael can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
We would like to take this opportunity
to welcome Michael and wish him all the best.
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Our Housing Needs Survey has now closed. Thank you to all those that took the time to respond. We received 62 responses, which gives us some good evidence to prove to funders that we need more homes in North Harris and Scalpay.
We want to build on the success of the Scalpay Care Unit project to build homes that will retain young people and families in the community. The survey highlighted the need for starter homes for young people looking to move out of the family home. There were also those with growing families that need more space.
In addition to meeting the needs of the local community, we aim to attract new people to the area. 55% of respondents were from outside the estate, with surveys returned from South Harris and Lewis as well as over the Minch.
One interesting fact was the number of people looking for rental property that had not registered with HHP – the local social landlord. A large portion of these were from the young people looking for first homes. These responses contributed to 60% of surveys requesting 2 bed properties. 20% of preferences were for 3 bed properties.
The survey also highlighted the two big issues facing people looking for housing. The housing market is Harris is limited, with little availability or choice. Secondly, cost is the most common barrier stated. Whilst prices are still low here compared to the mainland, wages are also low meaning that many properties are not affordable to the local community.
The data gained from this survey will now be fed into the Feasibility Study that is underway to develop a number of houses at Ardvourlie. We hope to have the results of that study in April. Should this be favourable, we hope to submit a full bid to the Rural Housing Fund to secure a slice of their £25M for affordable homes in rural Scotland.
It has been a busy week here at NHT so far with our AGM on Monday night and a helicopter deer count taking place across the Estate. Fortunately the weather held out just long enough for us to successfully carry out the count. Thanks are due to PDG Aviation Services and Scottish Natural Heritage for their assistance and expertise in helping us get a good picture size of the Red Deer Herd. Below are a few pictures captured during the flights.