The community of Leverburgh has voted overwhelmingly against the demolition of the old primary school building in the village.
At a packed meeting in Leverhulme Memorial School gymnasium last night, 64 out of the 73 members of public present voted in favour of an alternative plan to convert the building into a community hub.
It’s proposed the hub would include a 20-seater tearoom, a museum, a shop, a laundrette, a gymnasium, and office space.
The hub would cost £350,000, but grant funding would be available from bodies such as the Scottish Land Fund and sportscotland.
Alan Ross, vice-chair of the Leverhulme Memorial School Steering Group, said that the Comhairle had indicated it wanted to demolish the old primary block and convert the resulting space into a play area, at a cost of £400,000.
But before the council did this, he said, they planned on refurbishing the existing school block at a cost of £1.2 million.
During this time, he said, schoolchildren would be educated in the old primary block.
The issue is set to be discussed by the full council next week.
Mr Ross said a briefing report to councillors had stated: ‘“The school comprises two main buildings, one of which is considered in such a poor state or repair and condition that it is proposed it should be demolished’.”
He told the meeting: “Yet this is the same building they are planning on using as a school when the other block is being worked on.”
The steering group had commissioned a survey by Maciver Consultancy Services, which had found that the old primary building was in ‘good condition for a building of its age.”
“There are some very disturbing aspects to this,” said Mr Ross.
“To say it is a clear contradiction would be putting it mildly.”
The meeting heard from Iain and Annie MacSween, of Carthannas Nis, which ran a shop and laundrette with proceeds going to charity.
They were also involved in the running of the former Cross School building, which now housed a hugely successful historical society museum, along with a café and small shop.
Mr MacSween said their endeavours were boosted by 60 volunteers, and last year they had made £54,000, all of which was ploughed straight back into the community.
His wife Annie assured those present that with drive and ambition, of which she had seen plenty in evidence that evening, she was sure the Leverburgh community initiative would work.
She recommended applying to LEADER to get assistance for a full-time co-ordinator post to run the community hub.
Following the meeting, Mr Ross told EVENTS he was ‘delighted’ with the response of the community.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.
“Have the Comhairle really got £1.6 million to spend on this?
“They need to find almost £10 million in budget cuts, and here we are offering them a golden opportunity.”
He added: “This was the biggest meeting in Leverburgh for many years.
“It shows how strongly people feel about it.”
The gymnasium was packed as it heard of the steering group's proposals
Iain and Annie MacSween spoke of their experiences with a similar community initiative in Ness
The steering group revealed their plans for a community hub