Community makes recommendations for Ballachulish peninsula

Over a hundred people packed the Ballachulish Village Hall on Sunday evening. Photograph: Richard Mason

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For the second time this month, Ballachulish residents packed the Village Hall and resoundingly voted against a large holiday development on the peninsula.

On Sunday (January 26) evening, developers Ossian, Crieff Hydro and Denholm Architects hosted a workshop to gain an idea of what the community wanted to do with the land.

Those in attendance were split into 10 groups that each discussed ideas for the area with the overriding opinion – which was met with a round of applause when suggested – was a community buyout of the land.

Laurence Young, who runs Ossian and is leading the project for a development told the meeting that he is open to working with the community.

He told the Lochaber Times: ‘I think there absolutely is a deal to be done. We would much prefer to have community support behind our commercial developments and coming together in some compromise is where it should be.

‘I say in my document we should find the ‘win win’. The further point I make in the document and we got agreement to at the meeting – for a compromise there needs to be a good method of ongoing consultation and discussion.

‘Our companies can’t move things forward with meetings of 100 people. The suggestion from the meeting is that it’s the community company who should be the negotiating group – and that all sounds good and logical to us.’

The Ballachulish Community Company works ‘hand in glove’ with the Community Council to enact ideas that the community want to see, according to the chairman of both, Kevin Smith.

The company is holding a meeting today (January 30).

Mr Smith said: ‘Community Company will assist in a community buyout if that is the road the community decides. We would have to carry out a ballot of the community to gauge all the responses.

‘On the land purchase cost, if a nominal fee was paid at the time of acquiring the land, that should have a relevance to community purchase.’

While a small holiday development had some backing in the hall, most wanted the main area of the peninsula unspoiled and for the footpath to be maintained.

The area marked BH07 has been zoned to develop tourism opportunities and the consensus was that this, and the western part of the peninsula are the only parts that should be developed, if any. Photograph Highland Council

Crieff Hydro, that owns the Isles of Glencoe Hotel, was represented at the meeting by Patrick Diack, general manager for the area.

He told the Lochaber Times that whatever happens, they will still want to develop some self-catering holiday accommodation because of the increased returns.

He said: ‘For this area the average hotel stay is just over a day. With self-catering, that figure is almost double so it is somewhere that we are very much looking to get involved in.’

The group wants to build units that feel consistent and organic with the natural landscape, but others in attendance felt the group were trying to squeeze out smaller businesses offering the same thing.

There was also some confusion about how the land found its way into private ownership as Highland Council had been presiding over it.

Laurence Young, who took ownership of the land before selling part to Crieff Hydro, made clear how it changed hands.

He said: ‘The reality is that it was owned privately by the slate company for decades. It was only passed by Ballachulish estate company to the Scottish development agency in 1978. For the purpose of the regeneration, Highland Council sought a commercial developer for the site for many years.

‘We submitted proposals, presented to a committee and were selected in a competitive tender. The offer was a long lease over the land, with an option to purchase inbuilt into the original lease. After a number of years, we exercised the option to purchase, the land was valued and the company definitely paid a cash sum across to the council. I can’t recall the amount, but there must be records in Highland Council. It was certainly material – tens of thousands.’