North Harris Trust’s annual community consultation has resulted in broadly positive feedback and an action plan for the next six to twelve months.
Residents of the community-owned estate have flagged a range of action points and strategic policy suggestions, spanning housing, small business opportunities, supporting community support, and tourism management.
The consultation feedback has now been analysed, and a series of workable actions have been determined for each of the topics raised.
Among the suggestions floated is the potential for wind and hydropower to generate revenue for the trust and the local community with the advent of the interconnector, which will alleviate grid capacity limitations.
The trust notes that it would now be worthwhile revisiting the small-scale ‘run of river’ hydro scheme in the Abhainn Màraig system and wind turbines of various scales in multiple locations.
However, the trust board comments that with the end of the Feed in Tariff scheme, the financial feasibility of these projects may be more challenging than in the past.
Nevertheless, the estate intends to monitor grid capacity increases and explore wind and hydropower options with potential project delivery partners when appropriate.
Consultation feedback, meanwhile, commended the trust in securing ownership of the foreshore from Crown Estate Scotland and the associated benefits that this represents immediately for local users of the foreshore, as well as possibilities for future opportunities.
Estate residents highlighted how foreshore ownership enshrines the right to sustainable non-commercial use of the foreshore by the community while providing an opportunity to generate income from commercial activities.
Consequently, the trust will draft a policy on community use of the foreshore and its resources in the coming months.
One sticking point for many in the trust area was the estate’s general untidiness, particularly in Tarbert.
The trust has pledged to continue its efforts this year and seek ways to deliver a tidier Tarbert in summer 2023 by working with Harris Voluntary Service, the Harris Forum, CNES and other partners.
Another idea put forward in the consultation was that North Harris Trust should place greater emphasis on developing and supporting community activities and events. In response, the trust has committed to developing plans to develop a West Tarbert Growing space by the end of 2023, dependent on funding availability.
The trust will also hold an event celebrating 20 years of the trust this summer.
Another historic landmark, the Bunavoneader Whaling Station, was also raised in the wake of the recent publication of The Whalers of Harris by Ian Hart. The book has sparked renewed interest in giving the whaling station a proper sense of place.
The site is a Scheduled Monument with challenging topography, so development is severely limited.
The trust is in the process of obtaining Scheduled Monument Consent to remove asbestos from the site. This work should be completed by April.
Further works will be unlikely to attract funding from Historic Environment Scotland, or other sources, says the trust, and would therefore require at least some direct trust expenditure.
In the meantime, it is therefore proposed to investigate the cost and location of a small interpretation panel.
The full report on the consultation can be accessed on the North Harris Trust website.