There has been a dramatic change in the official plans for the so-called Barra hub…instead of an integrated development site absorbing the island's busiest main road, it is now envisaged more as an adjacent series of developments on the harbour-side of the road. The image above shows the new plan…the one below shows the old plan which had run into huge opposition on social media.
As with the rebuilding of The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway a decade ago, the change of site for the school allows it to continue to operate while the new one is built. And the former site becomes a playing fields and car parking facilities, as happened in Stornoway.
Whether this new plan meets the concerns about residential care for the elderly is another matter.
In formal terms, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has submitted its plans for a new community hub in Castlebay.
The screening letter requests the Council as planning authority consider how to handle the planning aspects of the proposed project.
The Castlebay hub is described as a community campus project by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, NHS Western Isles and Hebridean Housing Partnership. It will replace St Brendan’s Hospital and social care facility, Castlebay Community School (secondary and primary) and Eoligarry primary.
In their place, the new Barra and Vatersay Community Campus comprises an early learning centre, primary school and secondary school facilities, social care housing, primary health centre, hospital, blue light facilities, swimming pool, sports hall, community space and office space with associated parking, bus drop off and provision of external landscape and sports spaces.
The original site for the proposed community campus extends to the north and south of the main A888 road. The existing Castlebay Community School currently occupies the north part of the site. To the south, the site extends over land currently used by the Barra Children’s Centre. It encompasses the existing grass pitch and tennis court area.
Crucially, the site also now extends west of the Co-op supermarket ket and car park and the UHI buildings which is currently used as crofting land and the residence of the crofter.