Funding puts North Uist school in community’s hands

Lochmaddy School ready for a new life as a community hub, environmental centre and hostel.

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Funding has been secured to breathe new life into a council-shut school on North Uist.

Thanks to money from the Scottish Land Fund,  North Uist Development Company can now buy the former Lochmaddy Primary School from Comhairle nan
Eilean Siar as an asset transfer.

Plans are to turn it into a community hub, an environmental centre and later to provide accommodation for visitors, students and temporary workers.

The 1970s-built school was closed in 2016 along with Carinish and Paible, seeing its pupils moved to a new single school site at Sgoil Uibhist a’ Tuath.

Standing on the edge of Lochmaddy village, the building has many memories for generations of people on North Uist, says Catherine Macleod who is director of the North Uist Development Company.

‘This is fantastic news for North Uist.  This award will mean we can now move forward with the plans to reopen and sustainably develop the school for the benefit of the community.

‘The community hub will provide a multi-purpose focus for community and visitors alike: acting as a welcoming gathering place, an incubator for learning and enterprise and, an inspirational environmental centre to educate and conserve the unique local environment for generations into the future – creating many new memories for North Uist,’ she said.

After years of community consultation, a feasibility study in 2018, and various
planning reports including the architects’ concept designs; the Scottish Land Fund
success of £19,779 marks a major milestone, added Mrs Macleod.

Phase one of the project includes the Community Hub and an Environment Centre showcasing the unique natural environment of the Uists. Accommodation for visitors, students and temporary workers will be added in later phases of the project.

The school project was one of 21 different community groups to benefit from Scottish Land Fund’s latest rounds of grants.

John Watt, Scottish Land Fund Committee chairperson said: ‘Groups from all across
Scotland are making a real impact to their communities with a wide range of ambitious
projects that deliver tangible benefits to the people who live there, and the Scottish Land Fund is delighted to be able to support them.’

The next steps for the development company are to complete the asset transfer and
get the old school building open again so the community can get back in and start using.

More funding in now being sought for the next development phases including renewable energy for heating and electricity.

Anyone interested in renting a space inside the school should go to www.isleofnorthuist.com for more details.