Empty school sold to Kerrera community

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Islanders became the proud owners of Kerrera’s old primary school this week.

After a successful bid to the Scottish Land Fund and after 20 years of sitting empty, the school building is all set for a new lease of life.

The sale was completed on Tuesday July 2, and The Isle of Kerrera Development Trust plans to turn it into a new fit-for-purpose community centre.

The residents’ group has already started fundraising for the renovation and were delighted to get £119,167 from the Land Fund to help them buy the now dilapidated school from Argyll and Bute Council.

The funding also covers some immediate essential repairs and the
post of newly-appointed project manager Aideen Shields for the next year.

Ms Shields, who lives on Kerrera, said: ‘It’s a really exciting time for us and we’re all delighted. The community has been working towards this for a long time and it will be amazing to finally have a place we can all get together for workshops, events, parties, classes, meetings – you name it.

‘Living on the island, I have a personal passion for the project, so it’s
great to be getting stuck in and to see real progress.’

This is the second time the Island Trust has tried to purchase the building after an unsuccessful attempt back in 2008. The building was then leased to Stramash, but lay empty after the organisation’s plans changed.

The Isle of Kerrera Development Trust is  planning a big fundraising drive to raise the money for the renovations.

Events will include an island art exhibition at Ardentrive Farm,
a race night at Oban Marina and a children’s bike event at Balliemore.

A crowdfunding campaign is also under way and businesses are already showing support. All donations are welcome.

‘The community would be delighted if people can look for the Kerrera Old School Community Centre on Justgiving and please donate what they can,’ said Ms Shields.

Kerrera, known for its landscape, wildlife and striking ruin of Gylen Castle, attracts more than 15,000 visitors a year, via the short ferry ride from Oban and is home to a full-time community of 65.

Despite its thriving community, its public facilities are almost non-existent with no shop or village hall – the school closed its doors to pupils in 1997.

The last regular ferry service ends at 6pm, which can make life challenging for islanders. Ms Shields said: ‘With a booming population of 19 children – nine of which are under five – and some older residents heading into retirement, the community feels a neutral, central place to meet is more important than ever.

‘For many years, residents have been longing to bring the former school building back into community use, which will provide a central place for islanders to gather for the first time.’

The Isle of Kerrera Development Trust had previously been awarded £19,633 from the Scottish Land Fund to bring in expert help to find out more about what owning and running the building might involve and how to make it sustainable.

Community Enterprise, one of Scotland’s most experienced community
support organisations, developed a five-year business plan for the former school.