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OLD HYDROPONICUM (November 2011)

Monday 21st November 2011

We’d hoped to be celebrating today as 20th November was the official deadline and date for completion of the sale and transfer of the old hydroponicum to Coigach community ownership. Sadly, the current owners exercised their right to withdraw the property from sale  so the champagne will have to wait. It’s not all doom and gloom though: our interest will remain on the Land Register so there may still be an opporunity to buy in the future, and it has been a useful experience for us. Working through the Community Right to Buy process, proved that we can work together effectively and with a 93% vote for the proposal to buy in the first place, showed that we have broad community support. So, we’re disappointed but not defeated – and there are plenty of other things to keep us busy: feasibility studies are now underway for the wind turbine and micro-hydro scheme and we hope to have one underway on our piers and harbours early in 2012.

Friday 4th November 2011

On Thursday 3rd November CCDC held an Extraordinary General Meeting to allow our members to vote on two resolutions:

1. The Board of Directors shall have all the necessary powers of the company to proceed with purchase of hte land and buildings of the former Achiltibuie Hydrponicum

2. The Board of Directors shall have the power to negotiate and commit the company to commercial loans as may be necessary in  pursuit of the purchase of the land and buildings of the former Achiltibuie Hydroponicum

There were 23 people present, and we received 26 forms of proxy: there was a unanimous vote IN FAVOUR of both resolutions.

August 2011

Result of Community Ballot 2 August 2011: 93% voted in favour of the CCDC buying the old hydroponicum buildings and site.

We have applied for a loan, a grant and have raised the community’s own contribution.

History

When CCDC registered the community’s interest (under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act) in the old Hydroponicum building and land, a searching and exacting application process had to be followed.

Below is an extract from the Application showing  some of the key questions posed and answers given:

Q14.  Please explain how the proposals of the community body are compatible with furthering the achievement of the sustainable development of the land. The land was at one time a productive croft but has been non-productive for over 20 years since the Achiltibuie Hydroponicum buildings were established there (except for produce grown within the buildings). The ground also contains the ruin of a building important to the community’s heritage from the time of the Highland Clearances – the local tacksman’s house. Under community ownership the land will be put to diverse sustainable use whereas it is currently largely derelict. The old Hydroponicum building is in a dangerous state of disrepair and needs to be at least partly demolished and the remainder made good so it can continue to house the existing, and more, local businesses and community activities. In doing so we will restore the visual amenity which currently reflects poorly on this community within a National Scenic Area. It is proposed to investigate reinstating the tacksman’s house as a heritage centre with the community’s Heritage Group. The community has a major affordable and social housing deficit and sites will be made available to begin to address this. In addition, ground which was once productive may be made available for allotments for those unable to access croft land and wishing to grow produce for their own use or local sale.
Q15.  Please explain how your development proposals–(a)     are compatible with furthering the achievement of sustainable development of the community to which this application relates; and(b)     how these proposals will offer increasing environmental, social and economic advantage to that community.(a) At a well attended “Have Your Say Day” in 2009, Coigach residents confirmed a number of priorities for community sustainability and development, including: Community-owned housing; workshop units; land for development; developing tourism. (The first two being the top priorities). Community ownership of this property would allow significant inroads to be made. Other community sustainability priorities identified (e.g. piers, renewable energy) will be pursued elsewhere. (b) The old semi-derelict Hydroponicum building houses 3 local businesses, workspace for other businesses, a community boatbuilding project (http://buieboat.wordpress.com) and community storage, none of which is protected by a lease agreement. All this will be secured under community ownership, bringing social and economic advantage. Development of additional workshop/retail space, housing, a heritage centre and allotments will bring further such benefits. Environmental benefits will result from site clean up and redevelopment of the Hydroponicum building. Breaking the land in for allotments will bring social and environmental (biodiversity) benefits.
Q16. Is the amount of land being acquired sufficient to:(a)  further the achievement of the sustainable development of the community?                                                                                                                  YES/NO(b)  support any salmon fishings and mineral rights included?                                                                                   YES/NO/NOT APPLICABLE If YES, please supply details of how that support is to be achieved.If NO, please indicate why this interest should be registered/ re‑registered*. The property is small (1.3ha) but will be sufficient to allow us to begin to tackle some of those issues identified by the community, and is of a modest scale suitable for the newly formed Coigach Community Development Company to cut its teeth on and gain in competence and confidence.Its central location in the community and proximity to the school lends itself to housing and workshop development, as well as for local service businesses and for community activities. Being on the visitor route through the community it is well sited for any retail outlets associated with workshops. 
Q17. Please provide an assessment of any expected impact on any neighbouring communities and on the wider community and, if appropriate, any expected impact on the remainder of the estate to which the land in this application relates. Any impact will be positive, the site currently housing a semi-derelict building and the former croft land over-grown with rank vegetation. This area is renowned for its scenery and visual beauty (comprising a significant part of the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area) and tourists drawn to it are vitally important to our economy. The site currently impacts negatively on the community’s greatest asset.The developments will not impact on any commercial provision of the facilities we plan to provide, as none exist.There are no contiguous communities, the next communities being Ullapool (25miles) and Lochinver (19miles). All communities in this area are to a greater or lesser extent dependant on tourism and it is important that we uphold high standards of visual amenity throughout.The property, though privately owned is set in Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Ben More Coigach Estate. SWT is very supportive of the community’s drive towards self-determination and development.
Q18.  Please explain why you consider that granting your application would be in the public interest. Coigach is a remote and fragile community set in an uncompromisingly harsh environment. Though it has a population of ca. 300 there is a dearth of young families to maintain community capacity, diversity and opportunity. Ca.50% of the housing stock are second homes and any houses offered for sale fetch high prices on the holiday home market, certainly beyond the reach of young families wishing to invest their energies here. Lack of workshop facilities compounds this problem. Though there is apparently a lot of undeveloped land it is all tied up in private ownership and crofting tenure.The consequence of all this on the community is: declining social structure; poor housing; ageing demographic; lost economic opportunity; declining local services; a community more dependant on state social support; a less healthy community; a less wealthy community; a less fair community; a weaker community. None of this is in the public interest.If granting this application allows us to acquire the property we shall be able to begin to turn around these damaging trends and begin to build a sustainable, resilient and confident community.

 

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