It has been a busy start to 2018 for the Staffin Community Trust (SCT). Here is an update for the community, and other interested parties, on recent progress with some of its various projects.
SKYE ECOMUSEUM – CAPITALWORKS
Test pits were dug near Lealt Gorge earlier this month by Ian MacDonald, Digg, and John Gillies, Sartle. This helped the viewing platform design engineer Geoff Freedman complete his calculations for the construction contract of the structure which will provide commanding views of the two waterfalls, towards the Trotternish Ridge and across to Wester Ross.
Six specialist contractors, who have previously built platforms and bridges of this type, were invited to tender for the contract by SCT and Mr Freedman. March 1 is the deadline for tenders to be submitted. Mr Freedman was previously the head of design for buildings and bridges at the Forestry Commission and has a lot of experience. An example of a similar structure in Galloway, which he designed, is below.
The Heritage Lottery Fund is the development’s main funder. SCT would like to thank the Lealt Township and SGRPID, the landlord, for permission to build the platform. SCT believes the sensitively designed attraction will be a welcome investment in Skye’s infrastructure and showcase Trotternish’s landscape, all-year round and help local businesses. An economic impact analysis estimated that the Staffin economy would be boosted by an additional visitor spend of £165,000 through the project’s delivery including construction works, new interpretation and the events programme.
SCT also has planning permission to build a new car park with 20 vehicle spaces at Lealt to cater for the expected demand. This will be built north of the current car park, closer to the quarry, and SCT is currently in talks with engineers to appoint a project manager to supervise the construction. This tender will be issued separately to the viewing platform. The car park must be built before the platform can be opened, it is a strict planning condition.
The third strand of the Ecomuseum capital works is the construction of a new footpath between Grealin and Lealt and the much needed upgrade of the Flodigarry to Qiraing footpath at Loch Langaig and Loch Hasco. Glenelg-based Donald G MacKenzie has been appointed by SCT to project manage these works. He currently works part-time for the John Muir Trust as a project manager and is an experienced paths contractor and supervisor. The heavy erosion, water damage and poor condition of the Loch Langaig path is clear to see in the picture below. It is hoped to issue the tender for these contracts by April. The Coastal Communities Fund and SSE Sustainable Development are the two other key funders for the Ecomuseum project.
GENERAL MAINTENANCE/PATH REPAIRS
Angus Murray, SCT’s programme manager for the Ecomuseum, and Donald Kennedy, Highland Council’s Skye Access officer, will be working on significant repairs to the Brogaig footpath to the shore with the help of staff from Rabbie’s Trail Burners today (20.2.18) and tomorrow. It is the third occasion in the last 18 months that the drivers and office staff from Rabbie’s have worked with SCT on repairs in Staffin. It is part of a productive relationship between both parties which sees Rabbie’s provide a grant to SCT to purchase tools/equipment and identify work and repairs that are required. Rabbie’s staff has an excellent attitude to these work days and are a credit to the company.
Angus intends to identify other areas in Staffin which are requiring repairs/general maintenance and run volunteer work days for local people and groups as part of the Ecomuseum programme.
To that end SCT is pleased to have received permission from the Church of Scotland to temporarily site a steel container in the car park to securely store the tools and equipment which have been bought to date. The container will be purchased from Jansvans.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING/BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
A site visit was held earlier this month involving SCT, Highland Council officials, Highlands Small Communities Housing trust, the architect Rural Design, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association. This was in response to queries about pedestrians’ route to the development from the school and the siting of the cattle grid bypass. Alan Dickson, of Rural Design has now submitted an amended plan to the authority and SCT is eagerly anticipating a decision as soon as possible.
Staffin Community Trust (SCT) has appointed Twin Deer Law, to act for it over the course of the next few months during the site’s Resumption/decrofting process, land purchase, leases etc. This followed a competitive tendering process, which saw submissions from three Highland legal firms. Twin Deer is Fort William-based and the owner and main solicitor Johnny Bell has good experience working with similar community organisations in the West Highlands and islands.
There are several families/individuals who have expressed an interest in applying to live in the new homes. Most are either renting or living with their parents in Staffin, working locally or are living elsewhere but have strong family links to Staffin. There are also five expressions of interest in renting a space in the business units building/storage facility. SCT is hugely encouraged by this response and is keen to get the planning permission secured as quickly as possible so it can progress this development.
SCT’s development officer Hugh Ross travelled to the Western Isles last week to visit the North Harris and Pairc trusts and learn more about their approach to developments of a similar nature and see how it can be emulated successfully at the Stenscholl site. The challenges facing these rural communities in Harris and Lewis echoes the issues faced in Staffin such as population decline, lack of affordable housing and job opportunities, shrinking school rolls etc. But the impact of these developments is very encouraging and there is no reason why it cannot be emulated in the Taobh Sear.
SCT will continue to keep the community informed about progress on these and its other projects. If you have any questions or require further information please visit the SCT office Monday to Friday and speak to Hugh Ross and Angus Murray, or phone 01470 562 464 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org