Assynt Development Trust (ADT) has been awarded £114,000 to take forward the community-led development of affordable homes and community facilities on former glebe land between Lochinver and Glencanisp.
ADT has received £44,000 from The Highland Council’s Community Regeneration Fund, £50,000 from Crown Estate Scotland, a further £10,000 from The Highland Council and £10,000 from the Scottish Government’s Rural and Islands Housing Fund.
The funds will allow ADT to undertake a comprehensive feasibility study and for a design team to develop plans for affordable housing and wider uses on the site.
Nigel Goldie, Chair of ADT notes the issue of more affordable housing has been at the top of its list of priorities since its inception in 2018. He said: “The Board are excited to now be taking forward this significant development. We believe this will be a game changer for housing development in Assynt and create wider opportunities bringing economic and social benefits. We have the land on which to do much more than housing, and we will be looking for opportunities to bring the benefits of community ownership to the wider community.”
A steering group of local organisations is collaborating to map out the full potential of the site, which will include around 10 affordable homes in the first phase. Wider site uses may include a path network, enterprise work units, woodland crofts, and education and training facilities. A longer-term proposal for further affordable housing is being considered. Steering group members include the Assynt Foundation, Assynt Community Council, Lochinver Primary, Church of Scotland Minister, Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape, Ullapool High School and the Woodland Croft Partnership.
Award-winning architects Oberlanders have been appointed to take forward the plans and undertake design work and feasibility study.
They said: “We are delighted to be involved with this project, with the potential to bring such positive benefit to Lochinver. While we are familiar with the challenges of rural construction in the Highlands, we strongly value the ambition to develop sustainable affordable housing aligned with integrated community projects. The Glebe and Glencanisp sites include complex ecological environments of national importance, within which we are progressing appropriate and sensitive proposals with an experienced team of designers.”
The 55-acre site was purchased by the community from the Church of Scotland in 2021 with funds from the Scottish Land Fund. The Communities Housing Trust supported the community with the land acquisition, and will act as development agent for the project.
In 2019, a housing needs assessment undertaken by the Communities Housing Trust on behalf of ADT showed strong demand for affordable housing for all ages, and also particularly from businesses requiring accommodation for staff. With around 27% of housing in the area used as holiday accommodation or second homes according to the 2011 census, the vast majority of the 165 survey respondents believed that people living or working locally should be given priority for the homes.
Ronnie MacRae, chief executive of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are extremely pleased to see this crucial project gather momentum. This community-led development will be a flagship for the Lochinver area, meeting a range of needs and also acting as a model for other rural or island communities across Scotland. Being responsive to needs and tailoring in this way is absolutely crucial to ensuring ongoing economic and social sustainability of our rural places.”
A community drop-in event is planned for Tuesday 25 April at Lochinver Village Hall from 3-7pm to meet the architects and view and discuss the initial plans.
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