Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn celebrates 15 years of community ownership

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Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn celebrated 15 years of community ownership of Galson Estate last week.

Although there was no formal occasion on the day because of ongoing Covid health
risks, special events will run throughout the year to mark this major achievement.

The recently-built business centre at South Galson, on the Isle of Lewis, will be formally
opened in the next few months.

The new centre will include a community land mini-exhibition and new visitor facilities.

The strategic plan for the area is due to be refreshed in 2022 and consultation events will be organised soon. A re-launch of the Community Investment Fund, which was suspended due to the failed undersea power cable, is also planned alongside this.

This year is expected to see a comprehensive programme of popular events to
be back up and running. These include Sunnd, Plòigh and Plòigh Mhòr, Fèis na Fairge
and Dùthchas, plus family favourites Bookbug and health walks.

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn will add further activities to celebrate the significant milestone and continue to grow the popular health and wellbeing programme.

Speaking on the anniversary day, Agnes Rennie, chairperson of the Urras, said she felt extremely proud to be part of the Urras team that has achieved this amazing milestone.

She added: ‘It seems like yesterday several hundred people gathered on a stormy January day in 2007 to mark the official transfer of Galson Estate to community ownership.

‘So much has been achieved since that day and we owe a massive debt of gratitude to staff and board, past and present, who have made this happen. The resilience of the Urras has been tested many times but never more so than when our office was destroyed by fire in February 2019 and during the last two years by the impact of the pandemic.

‘I am grateful that despite all this the Urras has continued to deliver a first-class service for the community and together we can look forward with great optimism.’

In the past 15 years, the Galson Estate community has experienced many benefits that can be achieved through community land ownership.

Not least amongst these is the critical response provided during the Covid-19 lockdown when the Urras took temporary responsibility for key services including delivering local prescriptions and crofting supplies, together with publication of a community newspaper.

The first four years of ownership saw the management of the Urras being undertaken by the volunteer board of directors, with some initiatives being supported by short-term project staff.

Over subsequent years, with an increase in projects and the move to in-house administration of crofting records, staffing has grown to a team of 14 people in full and part-time positions, situated in the purpose-built UOG Business Centre in South Galson and the Habost Household Recycling Site.

UOG New Business Centre with staff, contractors and architect. NO F03 UOG New Business Centre with staff,contractors and architect
The new business centre with staff, contractors and architect.
NO F03 UOG New Business Centre with staff,contractors and architect

One essential project delivered over the past decade, which underpins the sustainability of the Urras and the wider community, was the installation of three wind turbines at Ballantrushal, near Barvas.

This has been a result of the excellent working relationships between the Urras and the directors of Galson Energy Limited and Urras Energy Society, all partners in a successful community model that has been replicated across other areas.

PHOTO – NO F03 15 years logo

Extra pic:

UOG New Business Centre with staff, contractors and architect.

NO F03 UOG New Business Centre with staff,contractors and architect