By Kirsty Crichton
Finding a suitable plot of affordable land is often the biggest hurdle for anyone looking to build their own home, but a group of local residents near Aviemore recently found a way to overcome this problem, providing an excellent example of what can be achieved with collaboration between the community and local landowner, without the need for public funding.
The Badenoch and Strathspey area was recently named as having the highest house prices in the Highlands, with available plots of land becoming very difficult to obtain, particularly those with an affordable price tag. A group of local residents decided to approach local landowners, The Rothiemurchus Estate, who agreed to work with them through the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, who would ensure protection of the discount on the land through attaching a Rural Housing Burden , to provide them with discounted plots on which to build their own homes.
The Old Sawmill Site at Inverdruie offered the perfect woodland setting for local affordable housing. The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, in conjunction with The Rothiemurchas Estate, has delivered fully serviced house sites to local people. Each plot was provided with electrical, water, phone & drainage connections, along with sewage treatment plants and completed on site foul drainage, ready for each plot purchaser to start building. The road to the site was also improved by increasing the number of passing places. The group, who are locally known as the “Sawmill Co-operative” sought planning consent for the plots and met all associated costs.
Rural Scotland has seen a shift in working lifestyles in recent years, with improved connectivity offering greater opportunities to work from home. This was the focus for some of the residents on this site, where live/work solutions are being incorporated in to the design of the homes, with the aim of improving the working environment for the modern family and making the community more sustainable.
This project perfectly exemplifies the positive outcomes that communities and landowners can achieve by working together to enable affordable housing, particularly when house prices rise to a level that is unachievable for many local people in rural communities. Four families, who were unable to buy a plot on the open market were able to buy in their locality whilst the site also provided two open-market sites for the Rothiemurchas Estate, offering a win-win solution for both the community and landowner. Work has already started on the plots, with the first of the four families set to move in March 2020.
This type of project would not have been achievable without the support of the Rothiemurchus Estate, the continued drive of the local residents involved in the project and the collaborative effort between the two parties. This approach is commended further by the fact that it requires no public subsidy, making it more achievable for similar communities to replicate.
It is hoped that a similar collaboration between Aviemore Community Company and the Rothiemurchus Estate can be delivered at An Camas Mòr – an exciting project which is being proposed near Aviemore and is set to deliver over 1500 homes, giving people who work locally a fair opportunity to buy, rent or build a home that they can afford. The plan is to create an economically sustainable community by meeting the needs of a diverse range of people. The community development masterplan outlines a focus on social inclusion, by providing live/work opportunities so that vulnerable groups can be cared for in the community and people can restructure their working lives. This forward-thinking development has also been designed in response to the climate challenges that we are facing, and An Camas Mòr is designed to use energy carefully to ease the cost of living both financially and environmentally.
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