The Communities Housing Trust has been awarded £94,490 from The Highland Council’s Community Regeneration Fund to take forward a project to provide new affordable homes and woodland crofts in Glengarry, to help repopulate the glen.
Inverness-based charity the Communities Housing Trust and Glengarry Community Woodlands (GCW) are undertaking a shared vision for a two-phase community-led project in Lower Ardochy Forest, where access to both housing and land were highlighted as important issues during a community consultation process in 2020.
In this first phase of the project, the Communities Housing Trust will provide two new woodland crofts with housing as well as four additional homes for affordable rent. Over 19 hectares (47 acres) was purchased by the Communities Housing Trust from Forestry and Land Scotland. The new funding from the Community Regeneration Fund will allow the Trust to develop a masterplan for the land with the appointed design team Catoe/Brown Architecture & Landscape studio and engineers Cameron +Ross before applying for and obtaining the necessary consents.
An allocation policy will be applied to the homes, prioritising people who live locally or who can bring skills to the area. The homes and crofts will also be protected to ensure their benefits are retained within the community upon any future change of occupants.
Ronnie MacRae, chief executive of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are extremely pleased to see this crucial repopulation project move forwards. The model will demonstrate positive land use and stewardship in a way that benefits the environment, the local economy, and the ongoing sustainability of the area. We hope this becomes a beacon for what’s possible for other rural communities to look to.”
Woodland crofts are crofts with sufficient tree cover overall to be considered woodland. The model, based on management of the forest, can support low-carbon lifestyles and livelihoods. The new crofts will be established with the support of the Woodland Crofts Partnership, and will bring the total number of woodland crofts applied for or registered by community groups to over 30, a significant proportion of all new crofts created in recent years.
Jamie McIntyre, from the Woodland Crofts Partnership said: “Community groups are leading the way on the creation of woodland crofts but we need a lot more of them to satisfy the demand that exists, so we hope that this innovative approach of working in partnership with the Communities Housing Trust will help groups deliver that expansion.”
Following a Community Asset Transfer from Forestry and Land Scotland in 2022, a neighbouring site owned by Glengarry Community Woodlands will also provide four further woodland crofts. Both of the sites will be managed as an integrated project, and received funding from the Scottish Land Fund for a variety of development work including a new Woodland Management Plan.
Ross Lynn, chairwoman of Glengarry Community Woodlands (GCW), said: "The one issue that is holding back the development of our community is the lack of access to housing that people can afford to either buy or rent. Because of this issue, our community is losing young, skilled people, who we need to fulfill vital roles locally, so we are delighted to be working with the Communities Housing Trust and Woodland Crofts Partnership on the project at Ardochy’’.
James Catoe from Catoe/Brown said: “As a young practice catoe/brown is very excited to be involved in a project with a clear net benefit to the local community. Redressing the balance of available, affordable housing and land in the Highlands is a key driver behind what we do, and by working alongside CHT, GWC and the WCP this is exactly what will be achieved here.”
Edward Brown further added: “We are currently developing sustainable housing designs that reflect the woodland locality, utilise local resources and are affordable for tenants to run. These will be incorporated into a masterplan that focuses on woodland crofting and sustainable land use. ”
A community drop-in event is planned for Saturday 27 May in the meeting room of Glengarry Community Hall from 11am – 3pm to meet the partners and design team to view and discuss the initial plans.
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.
At the Communities Housing Trust online EGM on 29 July 2021, we heard from Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) on the need for affordable housing and how a community-led approach was the solution.
We are working there with CCDC on a mixed development of housing and commercial units, crucial to the sustainability of the island community.
*Please note there are some minor technical hitches during the video above! Apologies for this.*
Read more about the Colonsay project here.
We are extremely delighted that our work with the communities of Gairloch is a finalist in the Best Regeneration Project category of the UK-wide Inside Housing Development Awards 2021.
Judging was apparently very tough this year, with a record 300 entries in total. Winners will be announced in November.
The Achtercairn development in Gairloch was a large-scale collaborative project with funding from the Scottish Government's Rural & Islands Housing Fund which provided 25 affordable homes (19 social rent and 6 low-cost home ownership, including Rent To Buy), managed by three housing providers; a tourist information hub with Gairloch and Lochewe Action Forum, Scotland's first public building to be awarded 'Passivhaus' status; a new shop and cafe which sells produce from over 40 local producers; a new classroom for the University of the Highlands & Islands; and a new training facility for the Air Training Corps.
Project partners included Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE), the Farm & Garden Store, Gairloch Museum, Colin Armstrong Architects, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Albyn Housing Society, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the Highland Council, VisitScotland, Air Training Corps, and Macleod & Mitchell Contractors, not to mention lots of local residents and interest groups.
Read more about the project and impacts on the village: https://www.chtrust.co.uk/gairloch.html
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.”
Construction of two new affordable homes will begin shortly at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig through The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s Rent to Buy Scheme.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) is working in partnership with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO) to provide two sustainable low-cost homes for rent and then purchase next to the College in Kilbeg, Skye. This is the first stage of an exciting wider development which is strongly supported by the Scottish Government, The Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise. It is anticipated the scheme will provide a varied range of housing and commercial opportunities over the next few years to enhance the campus facilities and to create a more vibrant, sustainable community.
Dr. Donnie Munro, Director of Development, Fundraising and the Arts at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig said: We are delighted to be working with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust to facilitate the development of these first two houses on the new Kilbeg site and also delighted that the works have been awarded to two local companies. HSCHT has a proven track record of working sensitively and innovatively within economically fragile rural areas throughout the Highlands to provide housing in a manner which takes full account of local need. With Phase 1 of the Kilbeg Development successfully delivered, this is the next step on an exciting journey to creating a sustainable model for a 21st Century Highland village which has Gaelic language and culture very much at its heart. To achieve this, we will work creatively and innovatively through key partnerships to provide affordable housing and enterprise opportunities in the area.
The recent Sleat Housing Needs Survey has been most useful in showing that ...’low cost housing is required, as well as new rental development to keep up with local business growth, such as with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and the population increase identified in census data.’ In addition to the first phase of housing, Sabhal Mòr is also currently about to embark upon a full Feasibility Study and Business Plan into providing badly needed facilities for Sports, Recreation, Health and Fitness for the area, as a critical part of the wider Kilbeg development plan.
At the turf cutting ceremony on the new Kilbeg housing sites are (from left) Steven Gregg, Highland Small Communities Housing Trust; Cllr Audrey Sinclair, The Highland Council; Prof Boyd Robertson, Principal, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig; John Swinney, Deputy First Minister; Angus MacDonald, James MacQueen Building Contractors; and Dr Donnie Munro, Development Director, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“We are delighted to be working again with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and R.HOUSE to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes in Kilbeg. The Rent to Buy Scheme 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 it has Scottish Government loan funding secured for around sixty homes, spread throughout various communities over a three year period.
Working with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig 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 and also provide a stimulus to the local economy.”
Local construction firm, James MacQueen Builders Ltd. who work alongside Skye based architects Rural Design, has been awarded the contract and they are set to begin work on site shortly.
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 and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, providing much needed affordable housing as well as a supporting the local Gaelic culture.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
“It is terrific news to hear that the building of these new homes will start soon at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This is another key step in the ongoing growth and development of the college and regeneration of the area. As well as the housing, these developments include a wide range of benefits for language and education and also for skills and employment.
I was very pleased to hear about the project at the college earlier this summer and I would like to commend staff and trustees at the college for their commitment and vision in bringing these plans to fruition.”
Two new energy efficient single storey homes have been built for the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s Rent to Buy Scheme at Reraig, Balmacara, Kyle of Lochalsh on land previously owned by the Kinlochshiel Shinty Club.
The Kinlochshiel Shinty Club approached the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust to explore the possibility of working together to procure a new state of the art shinty pitch by offering part of their site for affordable housing. Working in partnership with the local club has resulted in mutual benefits to the club and to the local community by improving the facilities and helping to address housing need locally. Due to the popularity of the scheme, a third home has been built at “Grant Road” and an open day to celebrate its completion is being held on 27th July.
James MacQueen Builders Ltd. has previously built seven R.HOUSE’s over two phases for the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust at Auldearn as part of a larger development including private homes at Montrose Woods. The homes have received excellent feedback on the extremely low running costs experienced by the tenants, which makes the homes more affordable to live in, as well as, to rent and then purchase.
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“Once again we are delighted to be working with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and R.HOUSE to provide energy efficient, lower-cost homes in Balmacara. The Rent to Buy Scheme provides households with the opportunity to rent and the purchase their homes with the aid of a loyalty cash-back amount for their mortgage deposit. The scheme has proved extremely popular and it has loan funding secured for around 60 homes, spread throughout Highland communities over a 3 year period.
This development is an excellent example of how dedicated partnership working in smaller communities can have a significant impact. The Kinlochshiel Shinty Club has been an excellent partner to work with and we wish them every success with their new pitch and their shinty fixtures”.
Keith Loades on behalf of The Shinty Club stated:
“We welcome the great news that the new houses are about to be tenanted. It was a pleasure to be able to work with Highland Communities Small Housing Trust and James MacQueen and it is pleasing to note that all parties have secured their own objectives whilst at the same time providing much needed housing and an excellent sporting facility which will benefit the wider community for years to come”.
A spokesperson from R.HOUSE, who are in a partnership with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. stated:
“R.HOUSE are 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 and Kinlochshiel Shinty Club, providing much needed affordable housing as well as a new sporting facility that will benefit the community for generations. We wish them every success for the future”.
Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart MSP:
“I am delighted to see that the Rent to Buy Scheme has given people who might not otherwise have been able to afford their own homes the opportunity to get on the housing ladder. Over the past 3 years, the Scottish Government has invested over £7 million to deliver new Rent to Buy homes.
We have now launched a £25 million Rural Housing Fund for Scotland which will provide an estimated 500 new affordable homes in rural areas over the next three years by helping with the building of new homes and the refurbishment of existing buildings.”
For more details, call R.House on 01478 612 899; the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust on 01463 233 549 or Kinlochshiel Shinty Club on firstname.lastname@example.org
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.