A landmark Gaelic arts and culture centre on the Isle of Lewis has received a significant boost to its future operations, with the granting of planning permission for an extension to its building in Ness, the northern-most village on the island.
Founded over 20 years ago, Taigh Dhonnchaidh Heritage Centre in Habost, Ness, was formed following the death of ‘Major’ Duncan Morison, a highly regarded and influential composer and international performer of traditional Gaelic music, who was also known to many on the island as its first itinerant music teacher.
In 1997, a year before his death, ‘Major’ had gifted his family home in Habost to the local history society, Comunn Eachdraigh Nis, and, following his death, the building was renovated and converted into a centre for traditional Gaelic arts and music, which opened in July 2000, and Taigh Dhonnchaidh (TD) – meaning Duncan’s House – was born.
The building now hosts a range of classes in instrumental music, as well as Gaelic singing, drama and art, and holds various ceilidhs, storytelling evenings and other community events throughout the year and the premises is also the base for the Ness Melodeon Band, with a Feis being held each Easter.
But, with the building being one of the original ‘white houses’ in the district, and dating back to the C19, space has always been an issue for the organisation and had placed a limit on the activities the centre could host, and the numbers who could participate.
Now, a new extension has been granted planning consent which will enable the organisation to extend and reconfigure the existing centre, and with new car parking and the installation of an air source heating system and a storage container.
On its website, TD states that the extension will be located to the rear of the existing house and will develop the existing space. The extension will house a new performance area, enabling TD to hold all of its events programme in-house, and will create new spaces for classes. Retractable, tiered seating would also provide a much-improved experience at cinema screenings, and performances, and TD states on its website, new kitchen and toilet facilities, and extended parking are part of its new plans too.
In granting planning consent, subject to conditions, for the proposed developments, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar planning officers stated in their planning approval notice:
“The application scheme to extend and reconfigure the existing arts and music centre, amendments to the car parking area, installation of an air source heat pump and siting of a storage container are considered to be acceptable and are considered to be policy supported.
“The proposed development is considered to be sited sensitively and is considered to be appropriately scaled and designed on a site with an established community use. It is not considered that the proposed development would give rise to negative neighbour, amenity, visual impact or road safety issues.”