BBC and STV news programmes focus on Staffin’s urgent affordable housing need

BBC Alba and STV have broadcast reports on Staffin’s challenging housing situation, as plans for six urgently needed affordable homes come under Highland Council scrutiny.

The Highlands Small Housing Communities Trust (HSCHT) officially opened a new three-bedroom affordable house in Flodigarry on Wednesday, which attracted TV crews from STV News and BBC Alba’s An Là programmes.

For HSCHT, a charitable organisation which assists rural communities in the drive for housing, it was a real milestone as it was the 50th rent-to-buy house it has built in the region. HSCHT is one of Staffin Community Trust’s (SCT) partners in its plans for six new homes at a site near Staffin Primary School.

An Là featured former Skye Highland councillor and HSCHT board member John Laing, Margaret Nicolson, the chairwoman of the Flodigarry Township Trust, fellow resident Maoilios Campbell, as well as Angus MacDonald, of James MacQueen Builders.

The new house was named by the Flodigarry community in Gaelic as “Buailtean Gorma”, which refers to a nearby area in the township. A couple will be moving in shortly.

Margaret Nicolson speaking at Buailtean Gorma’s opening.

STV’s report featured interviews with John, Caroline Ross, of Ellishadder, who is staying in a caravan as she cannot secure housing locally, and Donald MacDonald, a co-opted SCT director. Caroline, who is now running a popular catering outlet at the Kilt Rock, has recently returned to Staffin after five years in the Royal Navy.

The An Là report can be watched via this link, and the Staffin report is at seven minutes, 35 seconds into the programme:

The STV report can be watched via this link, and at 15 minutes and 50 seconds, the Staffin report is broadcast:

SCT is delighted that its plans for an urgently needed and strongly supported new affordable housing development in Staffin – the first in 18 years – have now been lodged after a huge amount of work by all parties.

A planning application for six new houses on common grazings tenanted by the Stenscholl crofting township in Staffin will now be considered by Highland Council. It comes after the community has suffered a significant population decline and shrinking primary school roll in recent years. SCT is working with HSCHT and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association to deliver the new affordable houses, which would be the first built in Staffin since 1999.

The development includes a building for business units and a storage facility. The land is owned by Scottish Ministers.

View of new houses, from Clachan, by Rural Design Architects.

The development has been sensitively designed by Rural Design Architects following a recent community consultation event. Staffin Community Council, which formally made the application for planning permission on behalf of the community, is supportive of the project. That also ensured a 50% per cent discount on the application fee cost.

The Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund (RHF) and the Scottish Land Fund have funded the planning and feasibility work. These funding streams are designed to help communities, like Staffin, to help tackle key challenges, such as housing. However, there is only two years left of the RHF and SCT is keen to make the most of the current funding opportunities.

As part of the planning application Rural Design submitted SCT’s report of the vigorous and transparent process it went through, with input from all the various agencies, to assess all the other sites identified during a Call for Sites in late 2014. More details here:

An economic report carried out for SCT last year concluded that Staffin’s population recorded a 6.6 per cent drop, between 2009 and 2013, from 608 residents down to 568 people.

The new house in Flodigarry.

A major affordable housing needs survey on Staffin, which was funded by Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, was published in 2014 and identified the need for new homes to retain and attract families and young people. Meanwhile, the population of Portree, has had a significant number of affordable homes built in recent years, growing by 11 per cent in the last decade, and some local people from communities like Stfafin, have had no choice but to accept housing in the island’s capital.

MSPs Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) and David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) are supportive of the new Staffin development. The former constituency MSP Dave Thompson also backed the plans. SCT has already received a number of expressions of interest in the new homes from local families. Two of the properties would be owned by SCT, two by HSCHT and two by LSHA.

To read the Design and Access Statement, click here: Design & Access Statement

If you wish to comment on the application visit the Highland Council e-planning website, register, and enter the word “Staffin” into the search engine and the plans will come up.

If you wish to write a letter instead, the address is: ePlanning Centre, Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, IV3 5NX. Comments close on Friday, May 12, 2017.

The Stenscholl housing site is supported, in principle, by:

  • The crofting tenants (Stenscholl township)
  • The landlord (Scottish Government Rural Inspections and Food Directorate)
  • Staffin Community Council
  • The Crofting Commission
  • Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust
  • Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Kate Forbes, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP
  • David Stewart Highland and Islands regional MSP
  • Dave Thompson, former Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP
  • Community Land Scotland
  • Development Trusts Association Scotland