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West Harris Trust


Facts & Figures

Organisation Name:West Harris Trust
Area Served:7225 hectares of land on the west side of Harris
Population:
Sketch:

The West Harris Trust is a community charity that was established to create and improve the housing and employment opportunities, and promote renewable energy and sustainable development in the west of the island. The trust has proven that a long history of declining population and limited opportunities can be turned around by local people being able to determine the priorities of their communities. 

The West Harris Trust acquired three crofting estates comprising of 16,700 acres from the Scottish Government in January 2010. The Trust aimed to increase the population by 30% over a 10-year period through the creation of 10 new affordable homes and creating and re-establishing 6 further croft tenancies.

 

Legal Form:

Registered Charity in Scotland

Volunteers:The trust founded Friends of West Harris to enable those with an interest to work with them to build a sustainable community capable of taking care of west Harris for generations to come.
People Benefitting:The community of West Harris
Staff:The trust now employs five members of staff in a mix of full and part time positions, in areas such as; finance, marketing, admin, facilities management, and community engagement.
Turnover:?230,346 (2017)
Earned Income:

£170,388 (2017)

Assets:

Three crofting estates, three wind turbines (part-owned), 100kw hydro station (part-owned), Seilebost School building, Talla na Mara Community Enterprise Centre.

 

Value of assets:

Roots & Links

Origins:

Between 1951 and 2001, the population in Harris dropped by 50% – a stark reminder that the community badly needed investment.

At the time of the trust being formed from the initial steering group in 2007, it was identified that the population in West Harris was unsustainable. 35% of the 123 residents were over 65, and there were far too few people in the economically important age group of 16-44.

The steering group also identified that 35% of houses in West Harris were either holiday homes or self-catering cottages. The trust agreed that for there to be a sustainable community for the future, this housing imbalance must be addressed.

The trust then set out to increase the availability of affordable housing, greater economic opportunities and wider social provision in order to attract young families into the area.

The Trust

In 2010, when the community purchased the land from the Scottish Government, the annual guaranteed income from the estate was minimal, and mainly from croft rent. In the eight years following the purchase, the trust has worked hard to develop a sustainable income and provide a platform for community development and investment.

Business Space

Before the community purchased the crofting estate, there was limited space for small businesses. The trust has since been able to  create opportunities for local businesses to flourish – a key focus.

The trust is now a major property owner in West Harris, following the purchase of Seilebost School, the creation of The Marine Shorebase ‘The Cliff’, and the Community Enterprise Centre, ‘Talla na Mara’.

 

Governance:

West Harris Trust has a Board consisting of 12 Directors.

Community Links:
External Links:

Hebridean Housing Partnership

Activities

Physical Hub:

Talla na Mara, Pairc Niseaboist 

Builds Local Capacity:

Increases the supply of affordable housing and boosts employment opportunities, renewable energy and sustainable development in the west of the island. Has successfully attracted many young families into the area.

 

Delivers Services:

Marine access project with seasonal pontoon, camping spots, campervan hook-ups with waste disposal facilities, Community Enterprise Centre with community space and studios, gallery and restaurant suitable for weddings and conferences, created six affordable housing units with Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP).

Develops/Manages Property:

Talla na Mara Community Enterprise Centre – supports up to 20 jobs through its business units, offices and restaurant, and provides more opportunities for employment in the area.

Along with the many economic and social benefits that Talla na Mara has brought with it, the development has enabled six houses to be built in partnership with HHP, who own the houses while the Trust provides electricity.

Seilebost School – purchased by the Trust and initially used as office space before relocating to Talla na Mara, the school is currently let out to local businesses and operates as a small motorhome park with four electric hookups.

 

Marine Shorebase – The Cliff, WHT’s first build, was completed in 2014 and is currently leased by a local businessman.

 

The trust also manages:

  • Sites for part-owned community wind turbines and a hydro turbine
  • Former primary school building
  • Community Enterprise Centre with community space & studios
  • Gallery and restaurant suitable for weddings and conferences

Six affordable housing units with Hebridean Housing

Other:

By September 2017, the permanent population had increased by 20% and its population of pre-school children by 700%.

The West Harris Trust is also showing how many small ventures can combine to help ensure better resilience and viability, rather than relying on just one or two main income sources. It is perhaps the only community to use the Transfer of Crofting Estates (Scotland) Act 1997 to help realise this ambition. The trust manages the use of a crofting estate, rather than simply acting as a landlord. 

One of the trust’s primary aims is to attract young families into the area in order to strengthen and revitalise the community. It has therefore made available various plots of land for permanent residents priced significantly below market value.

 The trust also cares about preserving its natural environment and works hard to create sustainable energy for the community.

Via its wholly-owned subsidiary, the trust installed three part-owned wind turbines, one of which is predicted to generate a gross annual revenue of around £45k. Similarly, its part-owned 100kw hydro station is expected to generate a gross income of around £120k annually.

Main Achievements:

 

  • Sold housing sites
  • Jointly developed community wind turbines and a hydro turbine
  • Purchased a former primary school  
  • Launched marine access project with seasonal pontoon
  • Created camping spots with provision for donations
  • Created campervan hook-ups with waste disposal facility
  • Created an ambitious Community Enterprise Centre with community space and studios, gallery and restaurant suitable for weddings and conferences
  • Created six affordable housing units with Hebridean Housing

What Next

Biggest Challenge:

Ensuring sustainability without reliance on grant funding

 

Lessons Learned:
Aspirations:

There is potential for a further HHP development at Talla na Mara, which would help to further boost the population and increase the availability of affordable housing.

Contact

Name:Linda Armstrong
Title:Commercial Manager
Address Line 1:Talla na Mara, Pairc Niseaboist
Address Line 2:Pairc Niseaboist
City:Isle of Harris ,HS3 3AE
County: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Telephone:01859 503900
Fax:
Email:linda@westharristrust.org
Website URL: http://www.westharristrust.org/
District:Western Isles