Alarming Staffin population slump makes local backing for preferred housing site vital

AS STAFFIN’S urgent need for new affordable houses becomes more pressing with a rapidly declining population, local residents have the chance to make their voices heard on a crucial planning blueprint next week.

Highland Council is currently seeking comments on its draft West Highland and Islands Local Development Plan, which will shape the construction pattern in Staffin for the next decade. It is holding a drop-in session at Staffin Hall on Thursday, May 12 between 2pm and 5pm and the planning service is also inviting online comments.

Seventeen long years have now passed since the last affordable homes were built on the site of the old primary school in 1999 and a key Staffin Community Trust’s (SCT) priority is securing new and badly-needed affordable housing, especially for younger people and families who cannot afford to buy on the open market.

Staffin Primary School’s roll has dropped from a high of more than 50 pupils around 10 years ago to only 13 children at present. SCT is aware of families leaving Staffin to move to Portree for housing. SCT has also recently learned – through an economic study for its Ceumannan II project – that Staffin’s resident population has plummeted by 30 people from 608 residents to 568 individuals, between 2009 and 2013. That is an alarming drop of 4.9 per cent. Meanwhile, Portree, which has had significant housing developments built in recent years, has seen its population grew by 11 per cent in the last decade.

1999: the last affordable homes built in Staffin.

1999: the last affordable homes built in Staffin.

The SCT has set a target that at least 10 new affordable homes are built in Staffin by 2020. More information on the recent work here: SCT is now working hard on securing funding to progress its preferred site, near the school on a flat piece of Stenscholl Township ground, in partnership with the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association. It is proposed to build six homes and a business unit/office space in a mixed development. This development has the support, in principle, of the Stenscholl Township, and Staffin Community Council.

The preferred Stenscholl site and three other locations, were suggested last year to the council’s “Call for Sites” for the Local Plan. A map of the sites, which are in central Staffin, an area termed “An Clachan” by the council, can be seen and comments made, by clicking on the link, here: For reference, the SCT’s preferred site on Stenscholl common grazing is labelled with the code SFM1.

SCT would be grateful if local people made their views known on the preferred site at the Stenscholl site as the board views it as the best opportunity to help prevent further population decline, retain our younger people and attract families to move into the community.