Land sale builds better future on Colonsay

Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) project officer Carrie Seymour at the Scalascaig housing site.

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Families needing housing on Colonsay at last have a foundation of hope to build on.

After years in the planning, the island’s community development company has finally bought two plots from the Colonsay Estate.

Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) project officer Carrie Seymour said ‘the deal is done’ and that now makes way for the next stage of design that will eventually mean more roofs over islanders’ heads.

There are currently 11 families and individuals waiting for a home of their own, some relying on other people’s goodwill and others living in caravans.

The long-awaited and much-needed new community-led housing development that will provide six homes and three plots for self-builds will go on one piece of land across 1.73 hectares  towards the south of the public road that runs between the harbour and the church at Scalascaig, while a second site nearby of just under one hectare, also just purchased from Colonsay Estate, will make space for two business unit developments.

The Scottish Land Fund awarded £395,000 towards buying land, a substantial award from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) also helped towards the total amount needed and industry partner MOWI, which operates a salmon farm off the coast, also made a significant contribution.

The new housing will be made up of four affordable properties to rent, two for low-cost home ownership and three serviced low-cost plots offering self-build opportunities, said Carrie.

As for the new business units, the island already has two occupied by the brewery and a book shop, people on Colonsay are being asked what the premises could be used for, workshops or office space.

The next stage of designs including getting a road in and working out costings will have to wait until after lockdown, pushing a building start date further into the future but Carrie says the island is agreed it will be worth the wait.

She told The Oban Times: ‘We can’t say when work will start on the next step to building. We’re out of step with England, construction workers here are not allowed back yet so we will have to be patient a while longer.

‘But the  deal is now done, the sale has gone through and that’s great news, although it’s a shame we can’t have a party to celebrate the land finally belonging to the community. No  doubt as soon as lockdown is over and we’re able to all get together again we’ll be popping the champagne,’ she added.

More funding for the building work will be sought, with the majority of the money coming from the Rural and Island Housing Fund.

On Thursday Argyll and Bute Council’s Business Continuity Committee  approved that £28,900 from the Strategic Housing Fund be awarded towards what the land at Scalascaig cost CCDC.

At Lower Kilchatten on the island, West Highland Housing Association has a plan to build five affordable houses.

Councillor Robin Currie, policy lead for housing, roads and infrastructure services, said: ‘Argyll and Bute’s economic future is based on growing its population. Affordable housing, particularly on our islands, is key to that.

‘That’s why we’re delighted to support a community-led initiative that provides exactly what the island needs – housing that will encourage people to stay on the island or attract new families and businesses. The development will also provide new job opportunities through construction, stimulating the local economy further.’