Island with six residents sees repopulation plan backed

The island of Ulva.

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An island with just six residents has had its new masterplan endorsed.

Argyll and Bute councillors have backed the new Social and Economic Development Community Masterplan for Ulva, off the west coast of Mull.

The island, around 12km long by 4km wide and inhabited for over 7,000 years, has seen its population decline since the 1800s, but was subject to a community buy-out in 2018.

It now plans sustainable repopulation and regeneration projects in the years to come – not least improving its infrastructure and the possible reintroduction of aquaculture and realising its tourism potential with 2019 seeing around 7,000 visitors.

The 44-page masterplan identifies the refurbishment of six existing properties on the island  – three of which are empty and would be leased out at affordable market rent.

It also identifies potential plots for new-build housing with the formal endorsement of the masterplan helping to speed-up the planning process.

Wendy Reid, appointed as Ulva development manager by the North West Mull Community Woodland Company last year, said prior to the buy-out there was no planning designation for the island.

Ms Reid said: ‘This takes all the aspirations which were expressed during the buy-out process and summarises them in one planning framework. The significance for us is that this sets out the broad framework for the direction of travel for the next five to 10 years and gives broad brush approval to our development aspirations making it easier in the future to do things for Ulva.’

The plans received a positive response at the council’s planning, protective services and licensing (PPSL) committee. They were approved in line with a council planning officer’s recommendation.

Councillor Robin Currie said: ‘I feel this is a tremendous and exciting proposal. It is great to see what is being planned and I totally support these plans.’

Councillor Lorna Douglas added: ‘I have been to Ulva a couple of times and this was a great report to read. I look forward to seeing this development rolled out in due course.’

In addition to supporting the plans, councillor Graham Hardie asked for information on any set timescales for the developments.

Planning officer Andrew Barrie said: ‘We hope to start some opportunities this year, but there is no set phasing plan.

‘We would hope to get developments carried out in the next few years and expect some planning applications to follow in due course.’

Fergus Murray, the council’s head of economic development, added: ‘We are trying to work with the community to try to deliver their aspirations. Each proposal will be considered on its merits.’

Councillor George Freeman said: ‘It is good to see a community actually taking control of its own area, and I am more than happy to support this plan.’

The island was subject to a successful community buyout on June 21, 2018 under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 by North West Mull Community Woodland Company.

‘The aim of the purchase is to bring about the social and economic development of Ulva for the benefit of the community and a key objective is the repopulation of the island.’

Ulva was impacted by the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, with many residents being removed from the island during that period.

It has links with the Clan MacQuarie, which laid claim to its ownership for centuries.