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Volunteering along the Postmans Path

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Despite challenging weather conditions on Wednesday 4th September a great amount was acheived with the help of 22 hardy volunteers from the Harris Stalking Club, John Muir Trust & S3 Pupils from Sir Edward Scott School, Isle of Harris repairing sections of footpath along the Postmans Path.

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September’s Mountain of the Month – An Cliseam

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Ardvourlie Woodland Observatory Construction Begins…

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Busy morning at NHT today as we marked out the location of the Ardvourlie Woodland Obervatory with O’Mac Construction Limited with construction due to begin later this week. Once completed the Woodland Observatory will sit at an elevated position within the 100ha broadleaf plantation offering 270 degree views over Loch Seaforth and up Glen Vigidale. Thanks to our funders: Outer Hebrides LEADER, Muaitheabhal Community Windfarm Trust, CNES, Highlands and Islands Enterprise & John Muir Trust .

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Open all hours

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Our Chemical Disposal Point for campers’ toilets has now had its second anniversary and customer numbers are increasing. The biggest complaint we have had about the service is that it’s not open on a Monday, when the Recycling Depot is closed.

With assistance from CnES, the local authority, we have modified the fence/gates and installed a coin meter and latch to make the CDP accessible 24×7, just like our other one at Huisinis Gateway.

The new meter cupboard on the left

Like most of Harris, we operate with a private sewerage system – there is no mains sewerage. For this reason we ask customers not to use “blue” chemicals in their waste. We rely on the majority of customers using “green”, septic-tank friendly chemicals – or none at all.

The meter needs 3 x £1 coins to open the latch. This charge contributes to the annual septic tank emptying fee.

See other campervan information HERE

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No more water tankers to Huisinis ?

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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.

Preparing to lift the first unit

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.

Evening arrival

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 last load on terra firma

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.

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Not feasible?

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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!

Have a look at the study HERE

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Ardvourlie Update

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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:

  1. The Ardvourlie Housing Project – Affordable Homes for rent
  2. Ardvourlie Woodland Observatory
  3. Ardvourlie/Bowglas Mountain Bike Trails
  4. Visitor Facilities/Cafe at the Ardvourlie Woodland car park
  5. 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.

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New North Harris Ranger

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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 ranger@north-harris.org  We would like to take this opportunity to welcome Michael and wish him all the best.

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We need more housing

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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.

The old Scalpay Care Unit – now two family homes

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.

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Job Opportunity: Ranger

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