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The first affordable housing to be built in a Skye community for 22 years could be named after a popular fishing spot.
Staffin’s housing, health and business project is expected to be completed by autumn, with James MacQueen Building Contactors Limited having been on site since last July.
Older members of the Stenscholl township , which supported the development by selling common grazing ground to Staffin Community Trust (SCT), have chosen Taighean a’ Chaiseil (Houses of the Weir) as their preferred name.
The new houses will overlook the caiseal, or fishing weir, in the Kilmartin River. The suggestion has been submitted to Highland Council for approval.
SCT has worked with the Communities Housing Trust (CHT) and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association (LSHA) since 2014 to provide housing for families and young people priced out of the island’s property market. Each organisation is building two houses, which will be a mix of affordable rent and discounted sales, with different allocation policies.
SCT director Donald MacDonald said: ‘This project, which has taken many years of hard work, is intended to be a step towards reversing the decline in population which we saw in the past and to sustain the local school and services.
‘Communities, such as Staffin, need to make homes available for young families and to
retain people, particularly when house prices are beyond the reach of most of the younger generation.
‘I believe there is an obligation for the community to engage in long-term planning based on sustainability with an eye to the importance of its cultural identity, job
creation and protecting the local environment.’
The three-bedroom homes will be aimed at families, particularly with children, people with connections to Staffin through work or family and what the housing needs are.
SCT is working on its allocations policy which will be shared with the community in the
coming weeks when the formal process starts.
Staffin has suffered an alarming population decline and falling primary school roll in the last decade. Potential tenants, if they have not already done so, are now encouraged to lodge their interest with all three organisations.
Recent progress with the new Staffin health centre, which is now wind and watertight, has been warmly welcomed.
The new health centre will be leased to NHS Highland to replace the current base in the Staffin Nurse’s Cottage. This will mean an improved health service in north Skye, with support groups able to use the space and video-conferencing appointments to cut down on residents travelling to hospitals on the mainland.
Two business units are also being built.
Skye Highland councillor John Finlayson, who is chairman of the local authority’s education committee and on the health, social care and wellbeing committee, added: ‘I congratulate the community and all partners on their success with this project which I believe could be a blueprint for many other parts of Skye and Highland.’
SCT’s project funders include LEADER, the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund and Scottish Land Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the SSE Sustainable Development Fund and the Quaker Housing Trust.
A crowdfunding campaign raised more than £7,000, with the renowned Gaelic singer Alasdair Gillies, who has strong family ties to Staffin, donating £3,000. SCT was particularly grateful for a short-term £215,000 guarantor loan from Highland Council, which allowed work to start on site.