The regeneration of the Achtercairn site in Gairloch, north west Highland, won international recognition yesterday at the European Responsible Housing Awards, part of the International Social Housing Festival in Helsinki, Finland.
The annual awards are organised by Housing Europe, a network of 43,000 housing providers across 25 countries, to showcase outstanding examples from social and affordable housing providers across Europe.
The community-led project in Gairloch won the ‘More Than A Roof’ category, supporting communities of equal opportunities, where developments show a range of social impacts.
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive of the Communities Housing Trust, the Scottish charity which facilitated the project, accepted the award.
2-min film shown at the Award Ceremony about the Achtercairn project
The judges commented that it was an “important project aimed at supporting small scale rural communities in Europe. Diminishing communities should not be underestimated. The list of partners and stakeholders is impressive: large 360-degree cooperation with all local actors to rethink the whole strategy of revitalising the rural area. This project could be a good model and inspiration for other villages, and is already being adapted and implemented elsewhere.”
Keen to tackle depopulation, declining services and lack of affordable homes and business premises, Gairloch area residents and around 50 partner organisations turned a derelict site into a thriving new geographic centre for the village.
Achtercairn now includes 25 homes with five different affordable tenures; Gairloch Farm Shop, which also houses a vet clinic; Air Training Corps facility; and the GALE Centre which is Scotland’s first public building to be awarded Passivhaus status. The Centre includes a Tourist Information Hub, a community-run shop and café which stocks produce from the wider region, community rooms to rent, and a veg-growing and composting area for the café. A University of the Highlands & Islands classroom enabling people of all ages to access new education opportunities has since moved to larger premises.
The project tackled some of the many inequalities faced by rural communities, such as fuel poverty and access to affordable housing, education, shops and services. The homes are highly energy efficient, and Scottish-grown timber was used in the construction of the GALE Centre.
The wider range of shops and services available locally reduces the need to travel, and helps to keep spending power local while also supporting the economy of the wider area. The GALE Centre receives over 40,000 visitors per year and supports 100 people locally by selling their crafts and produce.
The project was funded by the Scottish Government and The Highland Council. Other key partners include Albyn Housing Society, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Gairloch Estate, the Ministry Of Defence, the Gairloch & Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE), and many others within the community.
We know from our daily work that rural communities in Scotland are leading the way in creating sustainable futures for themselves, and for this to be recognised internationally is a great tribute to the power of community-led development.
We are proud to have played a key part in the success of this development and are delighted our work has now been recognised internationally. The whole development has brought new prosperity to the Gairloch and Loch Ewe communities.
The holistic approach of this initiative, bringing together all interested parties to ensure a sustainable future for this community, is to be thoroughly commended.
This blog features a variety of CHT’s developments and projects located throughout the central and northern Scotland. It also includes the latest news and updates regarding the Trust.