Staffin’s housing, health & business development makes encouraging progress

CONSTRUCTION work on Staffin’s long-awaited housing, health and business development could commence in the summer of 2019.

A total of seven affordable houses, a new medical surgery and business space will be built on Stenscholl common grazings, close to the primary school.

Staffin Community Trust (SCT) is hopeful that the legal process currently underway to purchase the site and remove it from crofting tenure will be completed and the land in its ownership early in the new year.

Highland Council granted planning permission last March and the Scottish Land Fund subsequently awarded a grant of £231,700 to allow SCT to purchase the ground and the current Staffin Surgery from NHS Highland, plus legal fees and other costs.

SCT and its partners -the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association (LSHA) – are now working hard to secure the funding for the development in a difficult financial climate and finalising the timetable for the tenders to be issued, with the construction works to start hopefully by next summer.

It would be the first affordable housing development in Staffin for 20 years and comes as the community has suffered population decline in that time, with a drastic shortage of accommodation for younger people and families and a prohibitive property market. SCT is hopeful the new housing will help increase the Bun Sgoil Stafainn roll and ensure the community’s long-term sustainability.

The project also includes a business units’ building and a workshop/storage base. SCT and NHS Highland have had encouraging discussions about the relocation of the current surgery to one half of the business building. SCT would buy the existing surgery – which dates back to the 1950s and is known locally as the Nurses’ Cottage – so it could be converted into an affordable home. Staffin’s district nurses had lived in the cottage when was first built but it is no longer fit for purpose.

The Staffin development is included in Sir Lewis Ritchie’s independent report on out-of-hours health care provision in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross and the development has enjoyed strong community and political backing for several years.

SCT has received nine expressions of interest in the new homes from local families and couples. Two of the properties will be owned by SCT, two by HSCHT and two by LSHA and they will be a range of mixed housing tenure.

SCT chairman Sandy Ogilvie said: “Important progress has been made in recent months and securing the land will be a hugely significant marker for this development. There is still a vast amount of hard work to do, particularly in securing the necessary capital funding, but we are heartened by the support from the community and our partners in delivering this vital development for the benefit of Staffin for decades to come.”

HSCHT chief executive Ronnie MacRae said: “We are delighted to be working on this exciting project with such a dynamic community group who are taking a holistic approach. This approach is ensuring that not only their housing needs are being met through this development but also the economic and social elements which are going to help make this community sustainable in the long-term.”

LSHA chief executive Lachie MacDonald said: “We are pleased that further tangible progress has been made to bring this much needed housing project to reality. We will continue to work with all the parties to ensure our mutual objectives are achieved.”

Kate Earnshaw, NHS Highland’s district manager for Skye, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for all the partners and the community. We have been acutely aware that the Nurses’ Cottage has not been fit for modern day healthcare requirements and over the years have looked at various options. This development will allow for improved health care facilities and access that will be compliant within legislative and quality standards for both staff and patients alike.”

Staffin Community Council chairman John MacKenzie said: “The Staffin Community Council is delighted to support this long awaited and much needed development in the area. This development will assist the stability of future generations and families, we hope this is just the beginning of more exciting projects to come.”

Architect’s impression of new development, from main A855 road.

The Rural Housing Fund and Scottish Land Fund provided grant support to SCT for the design and planning stage of the development.