Approval granted for new Colonsay houses

Argyll and Bute Council

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Five ‘essential’ affordable houses at Port Mor on Colonsay have been approved.

West Highland Housing Association applied in January to build the homes – one single and two semi-detached – on land south-west of Baile Iochdrach at Lower Kilchattan.

Argyll and Bute Council’s decision body, the Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee, met in March and noted the proposal had attracted 86 representations, when the island numbers around only 100 residents.

The majority, 62 submissions, voiced support, in the main arguing that affordable and social housing is ‘essential’ for ‘the future of the island’, to stem ‘a continual migration of young people’.

One supporter, Liam McNeill of Scalasaig, said: ‘I am a 20-year-old man working a full-time job on Colonsay and I’m being forced to leave due to a severe lack of housing on this island. I have lived here all my life.

‘Colonsay is majorly under threat of becoming an island completely filled with holiday homes and retired people. It is absolutely ridiculous that on an island of 100 people and many houses, we can’t even house the locals.’

Another islander, university student Holly Nisbet of Upper Kilchattan, said: ‘We need to keep Colonsay alive rather than allowing it to become a holiday destination and a second home.’

Others referred to a ‘non-existent’ private rental market, and ‘£200,000’ average house prices.

‘We cannot afford to miss the boat,’ a croft tenant argued. ‘While it is unfortunate to see holidaymakers and second home owners saddened by the potential effect on slow worms and lizards, I am sure it can be appreciated the benefits from affordable homes far outweigh the negatives.’

There were 24 objections lodged, raising concerns ranging from the houses’ ‘inappropriate’ design, the loss of croft land in Kilchattan and habitat for wildlife, including a breeding ground for the dwindling corncrake, and the development’s location 5km away from amenities in Scalasaig ‘without any public transport’.

One objector, who called Colonsay ‘the definitive and finest Scottish island’, argued: ‘I believe there to be spare land in the village. On such, or other, village area ground the proposed houses should be built so as to develop, and thereby help sustain, the community without diminishing the wonderful hand of features that define Colonsay. Crofting land is for crofting. It is not for accommodation development.’

Planning officers, who advocated approval, suggested a local hearing be held ‘given the significant local interest of a relatively small island community’. However, councillors decided there were ‘no particularly controversial or complex issues which would benefit from being explored in detail at a hearing’.

‘All the representations received from third parties have been satisfactorily addressed,’ the minutes noted, and the development was ‘wholly consistent’ with the Local Development Plan.

The committee agreed to grant planning permission subject to conditions. Councillor George Freeman’s amendment failed to find a seconder, and he asked for his dissent from the decision to be recorded.