At an early December meeting on the island, community reps took the first steps on the road to building affordable social housing at Port Mor. If the project comes to fruition, the new houses will greatly alleviate the plight of several, mostly young islanders who are currently classified as “statutorily homeless” and living year-round in caravans or other unsuitable accommodation.
The Sub-Group had examined the Council’s Development Plan, which lists the very limited zones on the island on which house-building would be permitted. The main “Settlement Area” encompasses Scalasaig and Glassard. CCDC had previously attempted to buy the land at the top of the kirk brae (on the left), but the funds they had managed to secure from the Scottish Government’s Land Fund had not proven sufficient to meet the Estate’s asking price. To cut a very, very long story short, negotiations had subsequently The second most desirable site within the Council’s “Settlement Area” was adjacent to the current social housing behind the brewery and bookshop. However, the Estate had advised the Sub-Group that the site’s price would reflect its favourable location, placing it firmly outwith the community’s budget. This meant that the community had to look for sites away from the amenities and central location of Scalasaig and outwith the approved housing zones. Plans to build in such areas are looked upon less favourably by Council Planners, therefore a much stronger case would have to be made.
COUNCILLOR CURRIE’S INTERVENTION.
Our Argyll and Bute Councillor, Robin Currie, convened a meeting in October in Scalasaig Village Hall. He told community reps the excellent news that there may be Council funding available soon to support the development of affordable housing on Colonsay. He also assisted by putting us in touch with the relevant workers in the Council, the West Highland Housing Association (WHHA ) and Rural Housing Scotland. Finally, he advised us to get the process started soon, so as not to miss the funding opportunity. Several years ago, CCDC had acquired land at Port Mor for the development of the crofts. However, Croft No. 4 remained vacant and the group decided to focus on that site. The community would ideally like to build eight houses, to meet current and anticipated future need, although it’s likely that Planning may limit this number. Hazel Smith, the Consultant currently working with CCDC, arranged a meeting of community reps in late November, to allow them to agree their position prior to the December meeting.
THE DECEMBER DISCUSSIONS
On Tuesday, 1st December, Chairman Trevor Patrick welcomed Lesley McInnes of the West Highland Housing Association (3rd from left) , Chris Read of Marine Harvest (4th from left) and Gregor Cameron (far left), a housing development consultant. He introduced them to Andrew, Helen, Gavin, Liz and Scott, all members of CCDC’s Housing Sub-Group. The meeting took place in Colonsay Pantry’s Conference Suite and was expertly catered for by Mr Gavin Clark, Proprietor. Lesley set a welcome positive tone at the start, declaring that “WHHA is committed to helping the
island to survive and thrive”; the Housing Association would bring experience, expertise and access to finance to the table. Chris Read added the support of Marine Harvest; having recently established the Colonsay Fish Farm (employing four islanders), accommodation for existing and future staff was needed. Marine Harvest was committed to supporting the project and could help financially in one significant outcome of the meeting was that it became clear that, in laying any new infrastructure for the new houses at Port Mor (mains water, electricity, phone-lines etc), we would also indirectly offer benefit to the hard-pressed new crofters there. Community reps agreed that a “Masterplan” be prepared, stressing the benefits both to the crofters and to the island’s homeless.After the meeting, Lesley MacInnes issued this statement exclusively to the Colonsay Corncrake: “West Highland Housing Association was delighted to come and meet Marine Harvest and the Colonsay Development Group. There was a good discussion about the need for affordable housing on the island and WHHA outlined other projects they were looking at with community groups in Iona and Mull. All parties were positive about doing something as the jobs that Marine Harvest had introduced onto the island provided different opportunities that would benefit people. West Highland Housing Association wanted to work with the community to develop something that would be welcomed by the island.”
Now that a suitable site has finally been identified, the community reps want to press ahead swiftly with the project. They will be in touch with the Planning Department to inform them that a concrete proposal is being prepared in conjunction with the appropriate organisations. They will also be liaising with Rhona and Les, who farm the croft adjacent to the planned development site, to keep them up to date with plans. WHHA will research and map the site and submit preliminary drawings
CAN YOU HELP?
CCDC realises that 2-4 units at Port Mor will not meet the community’s housing need. They will be
shortly be approaching crofters, householders and landowners to ask if they have any land that could be used for the construction of social housing. They stress that paying the market value is beyond their means; they could only afford to pay whatever the independent surveyor’s valuation may be for a given piece of land.
If you are in a position to help CCDC in this way, please contact Scott on 014 or by e-mail at