Construction work is under way on a £1.6m housing, health and economic project on Skye.
The eagerly-awaited site start in Stenscholl, Staffin, comes 21 years after the last affordable housing development opened in the community.
Six three-bedroom homes, a health centre and two business premises will be built in the next 12 months by island-based James MacQueen Builders.
Staffin Community Trust (SCT) has spent six years developing the project following concerns over the lack of available accommodation for young people and families, the falling roll at Bun Sgoil Stafainn and the declining population.
It is the biggest capital project SCT has been involved in to date, with significant Scottish Government support.
Donald MacDonald, a founding member of SCT, is delighted the site works have commenced.
He said: “This is a significant project for a community which was overlooked by public agencies for far too long.
“We welcome the support that has been given, but it is extremely frustrating that this has taken six years to build only six houses.
“The demand far outstrips this project and there is a real need for the Scottish Government and local authorities to put systems in place that encourage local development and support the efforts of community trusts and other voluntary groups.
“This community has seen a decline in population due to existing policies and planning regulations which deter development.
“Surely, in these challenging times, it is time to relax the rules and the public purse to allow communities to thrive and for people to have confidence in their ability to deliver.”
The common grazing land was previously owned by Scottish Ministers and tenanted by the Stenscholl Township.
Partnering with Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association (LSHA) and the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT), SCT bought the site for £70,000 using a grant from the Scottish Land Fund.
Funding for the project has also come from the Rural Housing Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), LEADER, the SSE Sustainable Development Fund, the Quaker Housing Trust, and a crowdfunding campaign which raised thousands of pounds – with acclaimed Gaelic singer Alasdair Gillies personally donating £3000.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP said: “This innovative project shows what a community can achieve when empowered to take local decisions.
“Supported by over £650,000 from the Scottish Government’s Rural and Islands Housing Fund and our Affordable Housing Supply Programme, these new homes will help grow and sustain the community as well as providing safe, warm and affordable places to live.
“As housebuilding resumes safely, partnership working like this will be vital to sustain our construction industry, stimulate growth and help us fulfil our ambition to deliver the right homes in the right places across Scotland.”
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