Storr Project’s potential highlighted to Scottish Government’s Islands Minister

A SCOTTISH Government minister learned about the potential of the Storr Project on a visit to Staffin this week and an innovative community-led solution to the road safety and sanitation issues at the busy site.

MSP Humza Yousaf, the Minister for Transport and Islands, met representatives of Staffin Community Trust (SCT) on a visit to north-east Skye earlier this week.

The government has recently introduced the Islands (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament and the Minister discussed the potential benefits of the proposed legislation with SCT board member Angus Ross, development officer Hugh Ross and Ceumannan II manager Angus Murray. Among the measures in the Bill is the creation of a National Islands Plan and protection for island councillor ward sizes.

SCT outlined to Mr Yousaf the work which had gone into the Storr Project over the last few years and the efforts to come up with a solution to the parking congestion, lack of toilets and road safety concerns of the community in a proposed partnership approach with the site owner, Highland Council. The support of the community following a major consultation in December 2015 and the options appraisal and business plan produced by the experienced consultant team, led by Athena Solutions, was also explained.

In March, SCT submitted a formal bid – called an Asset Transfer Request (ATR) – to purchase a section of roadside ground at the Storr from the local authority so it can build a new main car park, toilets and install interpretation. It is one of the first ATRs from a development trust to be considered under the terms of new Community Empowerment legislation, which the government introduced in January.

Busy Storr roadside this week.

SCT is confident that the project’s delivery would provide a direct economic benefit to the north-east Skye community, and the wider island, as the Storr is a huge economic driver for Skye with 150,000 visitors last year alone. It would also go some way to delivering badly needed infrastructure investment in light of soaring visitor numbers. Mr Yousaf’s colleague, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes, held a tourism summit in Portree recently to debate the current challenges which followed the creation of Skye Connect in March to provide a collective voice for businesses and other organisations.

If the ATR is granted, SCT will seek funding from a variety of sources to deliver the proposed site capital works, which are currently estimated at up to £900,000. The council is currently assessing the ATR.

Mr Yousaf also found out more about the SCT’s affordable housing development at Stenscholl and the Ceumannan II project’s delivery stage was explained by Mr Murray, the recently appointed programme manager. The Minister then travelled to the Staffin Slipway where a discussion about the area’s suitability for infrastructure investment was outlined.

Transport and Islands Minister Humza Yousaf with SCT’s Angus Ross, Angus Murray and Hugh Ross.

Mr Yousaf also visited the Staffin Community Hall where he met with Committee chairman Martin Perry. The Minister learned that the Hall was a perfect illustration of a professionally delivered social enterprise which had provided great benefit to Staffin, its resident community and visitors.

The committee took over the Staffin Hall complex (including Staffin Stores, the main hall, Kilmartin Restaurant and toilets) in a buy-out more than a decade ago and it has been a major success story. Several people are employed in the shop, major improvements were carried out on the hall’s interior and car park, a wind turbine was built and the Staffin Gym opened last year, with 1 in 10 local people a member. In the past 10 years the shop has donated more than £95,000 to the hall funds from its profits as it still remains a not-for-profit company, the whole building being run as a social enterprise.