Council pays extra £90k to fix Ulva’s broken septic tanks

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Councillors have pledged £90,000 more to refurbish six affordable houses on Ulva, in a bid to reverse the island’s population decline.

The North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) purchased Ulva for £4.65 million in 2018 via the Community Right to Buy initiative with £4.25 million funding from the Scottish Land Fund, and the remainder from private donations, local and internet-based fund raising.

Included in NWMCWC’s plans for Ulva is the refurbishment of six properties, at an estimated cost of £1.8 million, to help increase the number of residents on the island from five to 20 in the first 10 years.

This month Argyll and Bute Council agreed to invest £90,000 more from its Strategic Housing Fund, following a previous award of £72,000, to pay for extra necessary work.

An update set before councillors reported that all six properties were ‘deemed below the tolerable standard, so required extensive work to turn them into modern and affordable housing stock.

‘Essentially each property is being stripped back internally to the bare walls and rebuilt (including new roofs where necessary).

‘During the course of renovations, it has become apparent that the existing septic tanks have not been emptied for years, and as a result are now broken beyond repair. They all require to be replaced.

‘This is outside the original scope of the works agreed for the refurbishments, but critical to NWMCWC’s ability to let the renovated properties.

‘Two new treatment plants, repairs and improvements to the existing sewerage system are required at a cost of £72,530. A 20 per cent contingency sum of £18,133 has been added to the sum requested – this will only be issued to NWMCWC if required.’

The report described other progress being made on the island. ‘Work is also ongoing with Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA) to look at building five new affordable houses on the island by 2024,’ it said.

‘There are also plans to restore and repurpose the listed buildings of Telford Church and Ulva House, as funds permit.

‘Plans to return abandoned and neglected agricultural land to productive use have been implemented. Thirty-four Highland cattle were purchased in 2019, new stock fencing has been installed and some bracken control measures carried out. A new stockman is due to start work at the beginning of June 2022.

‘An upgrade to the pier at Ulva Ferry is under way which will make it safer for the fishermen (there are seven boats based there) and users of the Ulva Ferry.’

The policy lead for islands and business development, councillor Liz McCabe, said: ‘Attracting new residents for Ulva will be a key step forward in developing a thriving, sustainable community and economy on the island.’

The council’s Strategic Housing Improvement Plan (SHIP) includes plans for delivering 951 new affordable houses by 2027.