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Culbokie Update

We recently completed a Feasibility Study for the Culbokie Community Trust. The Glascairn Community Project seeks to provide much needed local services and facilities and create a new heart for the village. The Trust has applied to the Scottish Land Fund for assistance in buying the site, having successfully completed a local ballot which showed strong support for the project amongst local people.

The development proposals focus on a community cafe and shop fronting a new public square. Culbokie has no public realm or civic space to speak of and little prospect of ever getting any without this community intervention. Other communty buildings would provide rooms for local health services and a covered events space, with some housing meeting a need for smaller homes for local people and helping to fund the development.

SketchAerial copyCulbokie has become a commuter settlement in recent decades and with more housing estates to come it is in danger of becoming an all-out dormitory town, shipping workers in and out of Inverness every day. The market has failed to provide local services and even to meet local demand for smaller more affordable homes. Like many similar towns, house builders have built larger, expensive homes in recent times, partly as a response to rising land values.

Sadly, the planning profession has had no meaningful response to this issue. The land reform process is now addressing housing land. Market intervention to drive the delivery of housing which meets local need and responds to local character is overdue. Local Authorities are likely to have a key role, although most don’t use the powers they already have.

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This project is an excellent example of a community taking its future into its own hands. Community empowerment in action. The Trust has shown strong commitment to the task and provided leadership for a community which is realising that there is an alternative to declining local services and a diminishing sense of place. Culbokie is not alone – it’s part of a growing number of community-led projects which are slowly transforming Scotland’s communities for the better.

Our team partners were :

Hazel Allen, Athena Solutions; Amanda Bryan, Aigas Associates; Sam Foster, Sam Foster Architects.

The project was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Highland Council and HIE.

 

Great Bernera Feasibility Study

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We’ve started work on a Feasibility Study for a community land buy out at Great Bernera in the Western Isles. The project is for the Great Bernera Community Trust and is led by Calum Macleod, who is currently completing a similar study at the nearby Barvas Estate (http://www.calummacleod.info/).

The Great Bernera Estate includes Little Bernera and amounts to around 5200 acres. It’s officially part of Lewis although it has a distinctive sense of its own place. Most of the land is in crofting tenure, there’s a pier in active use for business and leisure and a good range of local services located in the centre of the island.

Bostahd Beach, at the north of the island, sits in front of an iron age settlement which was exposed by storms in 1993. One of the houses has been rebuilt as a heritage attraction. Even on a day scoured by the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo, it was easy to see the attraction of this beautiful place to our predecessors.

The proposed buy out is an amicable arrangement between the two parties and a good example of how the growth of community land ownership can proceed towards the Scottish Government’s target of 1 million acres by 2020. The study is scheduled for completion in January 2015. Updates to follow….