A seminar focussing on increasing housing opportunities in Barra and the Uists was held this month.

The community-led Housing seminar was organised by the Uist and Barra Housing Group, and had a main theme of ‘Innovation and New Thinking’ to accelerate house building on the islands.

The purpose of the seminar was to explore new ways of meeting the housing needs of the area, particularly in relation for young people and addressing population decline.

Over 50 delegates representing community bodies, housing stakeholders, the Third Sector, and local business attended on the day. A series of presentations set out the local and national housing context, along with examples of innovative housing ideas that have been successful in other parts of rural Scotland. The presentations prepared the ground for two sets of workshops, where delegates had the opportunity to discuss and develop ideas that could be explored further.

The Chairman of Uist & Barra Housing Group, Councillor Iain A MacNeil said: “This was a very useful event that brought together a range of partners from community representatives through to national agencies.

"I was struck by the level of unanimity at the meeting.

"There was a consensus that the challenges around housing should be owned by the community and that everyone had to act in partnership to develop and implement solutions.

“I was particularly pleased the seminar did not dwell on the challenges and that the focus of the participants was very much on exploring new, innovative solutions.

"These ranged from the high-level policy changes required at national level to allow greater local flexibility, through to consideration of trade skills in the construction sector and on to ambitious ideas about establishing a new 'gateway' village.

Mr MacNeil concluded: “There was good consensus today about the issues and what needs to be done.

"It is essential, however, that momentum is maintained and I will shortly be bringing the key agencies together to explore how we move the ideas generated at the seminar into concrete proposals and real development."