The Assynt Development Trust has bought 55 acres of former glebe land from the Church of Scotland, with support from the Scottish Land Fund.
The purchase, which was finalised at the end of March, marks the next step of a 15-year community-led search to find suitable land for building much-needed affordable homes for the local community, as well as other facilities.
With the land now in community ownership, the Assynt Development Trust is hoping the site will deliver multiple benefits to the community, and plan to hold further consultations in the local area once Covid restrictions are eased.
The site, situated on the road towards Glencanisp Lodge, was identified after a thorough process of surveys, housing need evaluations, and careful thought and planning.
Initial ideas for the site are being explored, to potentially include affordable homes, an all-abilities path network, commercial work units, and education and training facilities. The Communities Housing Trust supported the community with the land acquisition, and will continue to help facilitate the development process.
Willie Jack, Chair of Assynt Development Trust: “We are really pleased that the land purchase has now gone through, and we can now begin to address some of the issues facing our community, such as the need for affordable homes for Assynt residents. We are very keen that people have a chance to pitch their ideas in, for what they need and want in Lochinver. As everything is still at an early stage, and with the site secured, we can work on developing the site into what local people want for it, now and into the future.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust: “This is an exciting opportunity to provide not just affordable housing, but wider social and economic community benefits too. This community-led, mixed development model is often so much more suited to smaller, more rural communities and we are extremely pleased to continue working with the Trust and the wider community to further develop the site. We’d like to thank the Scottish Land Trust and congratulate the community on the buyout, and recognise all the hard work that’s been put in to get to this stage. Well done!”
Lochaber communities are benefitting from twenty new affordable homes due to collaboration between Lochaber Housing Association (LHA) and The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT).
After listening to the needs of local communities the new homes are located in Kilchoan, Lochyside (Fort William), Mallaig and Strontian.
This ambitious development programme forms part of an agreement between LHA and HSCHT to build 40 new homes per year. Development is currently on-going in several areas in Lochaber to invigorate the area by offering a diverse range of housing tenures to strengthen the communities.
LHA provides social rented homes and low-cost home ownership properties (LIFT), to complement HSCHT’s Rent to Buy Scheme and self-build options.
Blair Allan, Chief Executive of Lochaber Housing Association said: “Scottish Government financial support for increasing the number of new affordable homes throughout Scotland is at unprecedentedly high levels and we are committed to doing our utmost, in conjunction with the Highland Council, to take up all the available funding in Lochaber where, as everyone knows, the need for good quality truly affordable is so high. As many will be aware, the Association stopped developing new build properties some years back because grant levels and borrowing terms in the financial markets were so disadvantageous. Now, however, revised grant levels and better market conditions have enabled us to resurrect our new build programme and our development services partnership with the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust has been invaluable in enabling us to gear up again, not only to deliver our ambitious new build programme, but to provide a diversity of tenures that reflect local needs. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the Trust to deliver even more new affordable housing opportunities wherever the need exists in communities throughout Lochaber.”
Kilchoan has recently benefitted from three properties for social rent and there are ten properties at Lochyside, made up of eight for social rent and two through the Scottish Government’s LIFT scheme.
The Director of S & K MacDonald Homes Ltd. who built the properties at Kilchoan said that:
"S&K MacDonald Homes Ltd are delighted to be working with the HSCHT & LHA to deliver new homes throughout Lochaber. These projects have allowed us to increase our local work force and invest in additional plant, equipment & training. More importantly the release of a constant stream of projects let's us retain more apprentice joiners. We see the work we do for HSCHT as a win win for the area - creating homes and local jobs."
Quote from Campbell Joinery (Lochyside): “We were pleased to have been the principle Design & Build Contractor for the recently completed development at Lochyside, which involved the construction of 10 new homes. This enables local firms such as us to offer a continuation of long-term employment in the construction industry.”
In Mallaig, there is one Rent to Buy property. This two bedroom property is due for occupation next month.
A spokesperson from A.N Fraser Joinery & Building Contractor Ltd. said: “A.N Fraser Joinery specialise in the design & build of timber frame homes from start to completion. We were delighted to be given the opportunity to be involved in this worthwhile project in Mallaig with HSCHT, providing much needed affordable housing in the area.”
In Strontian six new homes have been recently completed alongside a serviced plot for self-build. To aid potential self-builders the Scottish Government has provided a £4m fund, The Highland Self-Build Loan Fund, where eligible applicants can borrow up to £175,000 to fund the initial stages of their build. http://www.hscht.co.uk/highland-self-build-loan-fund.html
Occupants are soon due to move into the properties built next to the High School in Strontian. This is the first stage of an inspiring wider development which is strongly supported by the Sunart community following a masterplanning exercise for the larger site. The development also includes Scotland’s first community owned primary school being driven forward by the Strontian Community School Building Group Ltd. and currently project managed by HSCHT. This is an excellent example of communities taking control of their own needs. The group currently has a live invitation to purchase shares to raise funds for the project.
The Sunart Community Council, of which Strontian is part, said that:
“The Sunart Community Council is pleased that the recent housing development in Strontian, on School Road, is now completed. This development was in conjunction with the Lochaber Housing Association and the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust. There are six properties, and a self-build plot which is for sale. Three of the properties are for social rent with Lochaber Housing Association, and the other three being for Rent to Buy. The Sunart Community Council is also pleased to see that all of the properties have been allocated to people in need of housing in the local area.”
Local construction firm, James MacQueen Builders Ltd. who work alongside Skye based architects Rural Design, have recently completed the properties in Strontian. A spokesperson from R.HOUSE, a partnership between James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and Rural Design stated:
“R.HOUSE is dedicated to providing architect-designed, energy-efficient, low-cost, locally built homes that can endure the rigours of the Highland weather. We welcomed the opportunity to be involved in this project with Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, providing much needed affordable housing on the first phase of development at Strontian.”
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“We are delighted to be working again with a range of experienced local contractors to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes throughout Lochaber in various housing tenures. The Rent to Buy Scheme is a low-cost home ownership scheme which provides households with the opportunity to rent and then purchase their homes with the aid of a loyalty cash-back amount for their mortgage deposit.
The scheme has proved extremely popular and has Scottish Government loan funding secured for around sixty homes, spread throughout various communities over a three year period.
Working with Lochaber Housing Association is an excellent example of how focused partnership working in smaller communities can create positive and significant impacts to address housing shortages in rural areas. The Highland Council and the Scottish Government’s continued support allows a diverse mix of housing tenures to be provided and also acts as a stimulus to the Highland economy.”
Minister for Housing Kevin Stewart said:
“I am delighted that the strong working relationship between Lochaber Housing Association and Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, along with their construction partners, has resulted in such positive outcomes. The Scottish Government encourages the use of different housing models and these practical examples of rural housing, backed by our affordable housing supply programme, low-cost home ownership scheme (LIFT), as well as our Highland Rent to Buy Scheme and self-build pilots, has given people who might not otherwise have been able to afford their own homes the opportunity to get on the housing ladder.
“Last year we also launched of a £25 million Rural Housing Fund which will also provide an estimated 500 new affordable homes for Scotland in rural areas over the next three years by helping with the building of new homes and the refurbishment of existing buildings.”
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.