THE new affordable housing development in Staffin could be named after a popular fishing spot, as the new health centre also takes shape.
The housing, health and business project is expected to be completed by autumn, with James MacQueen Building Contactors Ltd on site since last July.
Older members of the Stenscholl township - which supported the development by selling common grazing ground to Staffin Community Trust (SCT) - have chosen Taighean a’ Chaiseil (Houses of the weir) as their preferred name. The new houses will look on to the caiseal or fishing weir in the Kilmartin River. The suggestion has been submitted to Highland Council for approval.
And the recent progress with the new Staffin health centre, which is now wind and watertight, has been warmly welcomed.
SCT has worked in partnership with the Communities Housing Trust (CHT) and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association (LSHA) since 2014 in a bid to provide housing for families and young people priced out of the island’s property market.
Each organisation is building two houses each, which will be a mix of affordable rent and discounted sales, with different allocation policies. The three-bedroom homes will be aimed at providing accommodation for families, particularly with children; people with connections to Staffin through work or family and what the housing needs are.
SCT is working on its Allocations Policy and will share that with the community in the coming weeks, when the formal process commences.
The project will help promote Staffin’s sustainability after it suffered an alarming population decline and falling primary school roll in the last decade. Potential tenants, if they have not already done so, are now encouraged to lodge their interest with all three organisations. SCT has had 26 expressions of interest to date.
The new health centre will be leased to NHS Highland to replace the current base within the Staffin Nurse’s Cottage. This will mean an improved health service in north Skye, increasing access, with support groups able to use the space, and video-conferencing appointments to cut down on residents travelling to hospitals on the mainland. Two business units are also being built.
Staffin Community Trust director Donald MacDonald, said: “This project, which has taken many years of hard work, is intended to be a step towards reversing the decline in population which we saw in the past, and to sustain the local school and services. Communities, such as Staffin, need to make homes available for young families and to retain people, particularly when house prices are beyond the reach of most of the younger generation. I believe that there is an obligation for the community to engage in long-term planning based on sustainability with an eye to the importance of its cultural identity, job creation and protecting the local environment.”
Ronnie MacRae, Communities Housing Trust chief executive, said: “Community-led developments like this one are so important in small and rural communities. Traditional developers aren’t suitable, and aren’t interested because of lack of profit. Instead, this project is based on what the community themselves want and need.
“The mix of facilities this project will provide will really help to sustain the community into the future. We are especially proud of the partnership work here in Staffin with SCT and the NHS, and would like to congratulate the community on taking this project forward.”
Dr Audrey Sinclair, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association chairwoman, said: “As a locally-based community housing association, we are always delighted to work with rural communities. This mixed-use development, in partnership with Staffin Community Trust and the Communities Housing Trust, is most welcome. I hope the development in Staffin can help and inspire other communities within Skye and Lochalsh to follow this innovative example.”
Skye Highland councillor John Finlayson said: “Developments like this which are at the heart of a rural community are badly needed to both enable young people to stay in the Highlands, and also provide the services that all communities require including modern and fit for purpose health care.” Councillor Finlayson, who is chairman of the local authority’s education committee, and on the health, social care and wellbeing committee, added: “I congratulate the community and all partners on their success with this project which I believe could be a blueprint for so many other parts of Skye and Highland.”
James MacQueen, of James MacQueen Building Contractors, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this community-led project. A much-needed development that will benefit the Staffin community for generations to come. We applaud all parties involved with the success of the project.”
SCT’s project funders include LEADER, the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund and Scottish Land Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the SSE Sustainable Development Fund and the Quaker Housing Trust. A crowdfunding campaign raised more than £7,000, with the renowned Gaelic singer Alasdair Gillies, who has strong family ties to Staffin, donating £3,000. SCT was particularly grateful for a short-term £215,000 guarantor loan from Highland Council, which allowed work to start on site.