Former schools get community makeover

Carloway Community Association is refurbishing and extending the old Carloway Primary School.

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Work is under way to turn two former schools in the Isle of Lewis into community hubs offering social and economic opportunities for residents and visitors.

Carloway Community Association is refurbishing and extending the old Carloway Primary School. The building was taken into community ownership in 2017 following its closure four years earlier.

The community group has been awarded £200,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for the ambitious £1m project. The 140-year old building will be modern, energy-efficient and fit for purpose for generations to come.

Plans include a community shop, a commercial kitchen, improvements to the existing hall, office and meeting space, along with a permanent home for Comann Eachdraidh Chàrlabhaigh and Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh.

Mairi Steele, Carloway Community Association chairperson, said: ‘The redevelopment will ensure that the building will be modern and low carbon and benefit local people and visitors.’

A successful crowdfunding campaign and ongoing fundraising efforts mean that the community is contributing £30,000 to the costs of the project.

On the other side of the island in Point, work is under way to redevelop the old Knock Primary School, complete with state-of-the-art green energy features which will help the building become virtually self-sufficient in energy and ultimately powered by a local turbine of its own, in addition to solar.

The £1m renovation project secured £200,000 from HIE. The building has been home to the community wind farm organisation Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) and Comann Eachdraidh An Rubha as well as Bùth An Rubha and Café Roo since 2014.

A dedicated museum and exhibition space, improved offices, archive and storage facilities and a meeting room are all in the plans. There will also be a flexible multi-use area, complete with office facilities and wifi, for community use.

Urras Stòras an Rubha secretary, Catriona Dunn, said: ‘It has been a long haul since we acquired the building in 2012 and it is an enormous relief to have secured the funding for the project. We are extremely grateful to all our funders for seeing the community benefit in our plans.’