STAFFIN'S new health centre has now been handed over to NHS Highland as the long-term tenants of the community owned facility.

The £250,000 base is an integral part of Staffin Community Trust’s (SCT) Taighean a’ Chaiseil development in Stenscholl, which includes six houses and two business units.

SCT is delighted that NHSH took handover of the new Staffin health centre on May 9. The new building has a GP consultation room, patient interview room, waiting area, toilets/baby changer and kitchen/staffroom.
Work is underway to ensure the building is fully operational as soon as possible with NHSH staff delivering furniture and organising other logistics. At present the weekly GP clinic is run from the Nurse’s Cottage.

It comes five years after SCT and Staffin Community Council made a joint submission to NHS Highland seeking support for a new health facility, amid concerns at the condition and suitability of the Nurse’s Cottage in Clachan including access for the elderly and disabled, dampness, lack of privacy and inadequate car parking. The location and age of the property made improvements challenging for NHSH.

Both community organisations took the view the new development would be the ideal location for a purpose-built facility and NHSH supported the proposal.

The new Staffin health centre.

Before SCT issued the tender for the development back in November 2019, NHSH provided the internal specification and layout to ensure it can be a versatile health facility.

SCT will purchase the Nurse's Cottage from NHSH later this year and intends to offer the building as an opportunity for conversion into an affordable house.

The cottage was built by the Staffin Nursing Association six years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War - with the unanimous support of the Clachan and Garafad townships - and 15 years before the creation of the NHS.

In 1974, the last district nurse to live in the cottage moved out and the building later became the base for the weekly GP clinic delivered by the Portree Medical Practice.

MEANWHILE, the Taighean a' Chaiseil development is in the running for a prestigious national award. Families moved into six three-bedroom homes in February and it has now been shortlisted in the Scottish Homes Awards 2022. The awards recognise excellence in the new build housing industry, and the judging panel assessed more than 130 entries in 14 categories from across Scotland.

The Community Contribution Award recognises the efforts of ‘delivering a significant contribution to a local community’ and the Staffin project is the only Highland entry in the category.

SCT worked in partnership with the Communities Housing Trust (CHT) and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association (LSHA) and has highlighted the support received from across the Taobh Sear including the Stenscholl Township, the 'Department', Staffin Community Council and all the other local organisations, businesses and residents who have backed the project.

The work and effort put in by Michael Downes, Kevin McGillvray and the MacQueens' team, including their sub-contractors, since August 2020, and the project architects Rural Design was also key.

SCT director Angus Ross said: “SCT was pleased to lead this important local community development with the CHT and LSHA. We have achieved our aims of providing much needed housing, business units and a new medical centre and are delighted that our efforts have been considered worthy of a nomination for a prestigious national award.”

Ronnie MacRae, CHT chief executive, said: “CHT are delighted to have been able to support this community-led project from beginning to end, developing the concept of a mixed-use, mixed-partner site including the innovative business plan and helping to acquire the land.

“It’s an example of true community development, not just housing development, and has involved many local and regional partners over several years. This mix of partners and facilities is a real model for rural communities across Scotland. It’s brilliant that this project in Skye – led by the needs of the community themselves – has been recognised nationally, and we’re proud to have helped to make it happen.”

Dr Audrey Sinclair, LSHA chairwoman said: “I wish to congratulate Staffin Community Trust and all the partners involved in this unique mixed-use development. SCT rose admirably to the many challenges from inception to completion of this project and the housing association is so pleased to have played a part in assisting SCT achieve their vision.”

James MacQueen, director of James MacQueen Building Contractors Ltd, said: “We’re delighted that the Staffin development, such an important housing, health and business project in north Skye, has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Scottish Home Awards. This project has been achieved as a result of the dedication of Staffin Community Trust supported by the Communities Housing Trust, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association and project funders - demonstrating what can be achieved when we collaborate and work together. We are immensely proud to have been involved in delivering the much-needed affordable housing, creating homes for future generations and reinvigorating the local community.”

Rural Design ensured the development complemented the Trotternish landscape which is protected by the National Scenic Area designation. The development includes the use of timber, slated roofs, whitewashed homes and traditional stonework.

The award winners will be announced at a ceremony in Glasgow on June 23.

Local aquaculture firm Organic Sea Harvest is also hoping to have the internal fit-out work of SCT’s two business premises, next to the health centre, carried out this summer after a tendering process. Income from all three properties will allow SCT to manage and maintain the development and any surplus will be spent on other community projects.