Why have you launched a crowdfunder?
Hello, we live in Staffin, a small Gaelic-speaking rural community in the Isle of Skye, in the north-west of the Scottish Highlands, with a population of just under 600 people.
Staffin’s majestic landscape and world-class scenery (The Trotternish Ridge, Quiraing, Staffin Beach and Kilt Rock) is enjoyed by thousands of holidaymakers from every continent and Hollywood film productions. Tourism is key for our local economy but Staffin - as a living and breathing sustainable community - is at a serious crossroads - and faces serious challenges:
- No affordable housing developments have been built by the authorities in Staffin for 20 years.
- There has been a significant decline in our population, which is also rapidly ageing with a lack of people of working age
- Our primary school roll has more than halved in last decade - it dropped from more than 50 pupils in 2007 to 20 children
- Sky-high property prices mean families cannot afford to buy on the open market, a problem worsened because of the lack of rented accommodation available
- Families have subsequently left Staffin in search of accommodation
- Our current medical surgery – which is open one morning a week - is in an old and not fit-for-purpose building
- We have high levels of rural health deprivation and our community is classed as economically fragile by the Scottish Government
- There is a lack of permanent employment and business space
PICTURE: Sandy Ogilvie, former SCT chairman, is pictured at the development site. Credit: Willie Urquhart/WHFP https://www.whfp.com/2018/04/11/decades-long-wait-for-affordable-housing-in-staffin-finally-over/
Who are we and what are we trying to do about it?
If we continue to lose our younger generation and the school roll drops further then our community risks irreversible decline. Our volunteer body - the Staffin Community Trust (SCT) - highlighted these issues and hosted a summit in 2014 inviting the various authorities to discuss the problems and a plan of action. Five years later – and following a huge amount of work by SCT and its partners - we are edging closer to delivering the innovative Staffin Affordable Housing, Health and Business Development – but we need your help!
In October, we will be inviting contractors to bid for the contract to build this community-led development, starting in early 2020. See the architect's impression of the development, below.
It will cost in the region of £860,000 and involve the construction of:
- SIX FAMILY HOMES (all three-bedrooms) available for rent or at low cost home ownership
- A MULTI-USE HEALTH FACILITY including a weekly GP clinic with NHS Highland becoming a long-term tenant and the potential for other medical-related services being offered
- CONVERSION of the current Staffin clinic, which will be vacated by the NHS, into a seventh AFFORDABLE FAMILY HOME
- A BUSINESS unit offering space for existing or new firms to expand or set up a new base locally
- A STORAGE building for companies wishing to store equipment or materials safely and securely
SCT is an organisation for the people and district of Staffin which is made up of 23 crofting villages. The SCT has delivered projects for the last three decades and is a development trust rooted in the community it serves. SCT has charitable status and a board of volunteer directors who live locally and have their own employment or businesses, and a far-flung diaspora who retain strong links with their ‘home’.
We have a small workforce of two staff who are based in central Staffin. SCT has a strong track record of delivering social, cultural and economic projects including redeveloping our local harbour, planting native trees, building a waterfall viewing platform, footpaths, car parking and attractive heritage interpretation while also delivering activities for older residents, school children, families and visitors. The SCT enjoys the support of 103 local residents as ordinary members. https://staffin-trust.co.uk/projects
What makes your project special?
SCT is a forward-thinking and capable organisation – it has to be. We are more than five hours’ drive away from Scotland’s capital city and the seat of government. To deliver this innovative project our community is empowering itself and making history, with a series of firsts, including:
- The very first community-led housing, health and business development on our island
- The first land purchase by SCT
- This first development on common grazing croft land in Staffin
- SCT will become a landlord and own housing, a new health facility and business space
- The very first Crowdfunding Appeal it has launched!
The community ‘buy in’– makes this project special. SCT is working in partnership with two highly respected housing charities - The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) and the Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association (LSHA).
Our project is vital for Staffin’s future sustainability. We cannot sleepwalk into becoming a retirement village dominated by holiday accommodation. This development will see SEVEN families secure a home, secure our primary school’s future, provide access to a modern health building and services and offer economic opportunities in a fragile community.
We already have nine families who have expressed an interest in the homes which illustrates the demand.
The development site is close to the school and centre of the village. There will be quality homes for families close to the school and centre of the village; people will be working out of the site and visiting it to gain access to health services. The noise of children playing in the gardens of the new homes and drifting across the district will be a sound that we cannot wait to hear.... it will be of a community with a brighter and sustainable future.
This appeal is the culmination of a five-year journey involving dozens of meetings, research, visits to other communities, funding applications, lobbying and consultation events. You can see the community support from our short film, our school pupil, staff, residents, businesses, school etc all appear. The Staffin Community Council, Columba 1400 Centre and Staffin Hall Community Association have all been very supportive, as have businesses across the district.
How will your money be used?
SCT is seeking to reach a target of £46,000 which would be spent directly on the construction costs - specifically the foundations for the new houses and the walls and roof of the new clinic.
What’s in it for you?
SCT is a not for profit community organisation which has charitable status. We are registered on the Scottish Charity Register, number is SCO49540. We are unable to offer generous rewards in return for donations, but we can offer you some newly produced t-shirts...!
You would be however supporting an island community secure its own future by donating and SCT will ensure that every single contribution –– will be listed and acknowledged publicly. We would also ensure you are kept informed and updated during the construction stage, and invite you to the opening of course!
John Mackenzie, Staffin Community Council chairman, said: “As a rural community it is important that we find ways and means of attracting families into the area. Staffin has lots to offer in terms of environment, tourism and do on. However, in the current climate it is a struggle for many to afford a house in order to stay in our area so these new houses are a necessity really in order to get more families into our area to support our school and wider community. The new surgery has long been overdue and possibility of having regular surgeries will be of major benefit to those who struggle to get to Portree! The possibility of businesses being able to set up in one of the units means the potential for new jobs for young and old and hopefully a boost to our local economy! Overall this project can only be a benefit to Staffin; there are no negatives!”
Martin Perry, Staffin Community Hall Association chairman, said: ”Staffin as a community and SCT in particular have been battling for years to provide affordable housing to encourage the younger generation to stay. Whilst we cannot affect the price of the housing in the current market, what we can do is to build affordable and sustainable housing for the younger generation. It is particularly important that the younger generation inherits a sustainable community and continues the work that current volunteers in the trust, the community council and the community hall committee currently do. None of us are getting any younger, we need continuity – we need youngsters!”
Marie Claire Tully, Columba 1400 Centre chief executive, said: "As a local charity, social enterprise and local employer, Columba 1400 warmly supports the new housing development in Staffin as it is so important to encourage families to move to the area and contribute towards the community. This will enhance the school roll and the fabric and reputation of Staffin as a wonderful place to live and work."
David Stewart, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, said: “What a great video and a great campaign - a positive message from a community which wants to grow and not decline. I’ve been supporting Staffin Community Trust for the past three years and I am now delighted to support this fundraiser which I am sure will appeal to Scots across the globe. The community have fought the good fight to get these plans through the various Government agencies and they have to be commended for not giving up and getting to this stage.
"There always has to be a balance between encouraging the aspirations of a remote, rural community and protecting the environment and these plans fit the bill. I’m looking forward to seeing these new homes, a new GP’s surgery and business units come to fruition.”
Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch Kate Forbes MSP said: “Housing is the most common issue that is raised with me and there is an obvious need for new housing in Staffin. It is one of the primary means of attracting and retaining people in the area.
"Staffin Community Trust have done an incredible job in taking this project so far, but they need our help to take it further. The business units go hand in hand with new housing, giving local businesses and entrepreneurs the space that they need to locate in Staffin rather than going elsewhere. This is one of the most exciting initiatives taking place on Skye.”
Ian Hepburn, Chair of Community Land Scotland: “Community Land Scotland is highly supportive of this ambitious and timely initiative. The new surgery, housing and business units being developed by Staffin Community Trust are vital to increasing Staffin’s population and safeguarding the community’s sustainability for generations to come. It’s a fantastic example of a dynamic community taking the lead in securing its own future that deserves widespread support to turn that ambition into reality.”
John Lamont, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, said “We are pleased that real progress is now being made to bring this much needed housing project to reality and we will actively work with all the parties to achieve our mutual objectives.”
Ronnie MacRae, Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust chief executive, said: “HSCHT are delighted to be part of this SCT project which will provide much needed Social, Economic and Housing benefits for the community. The holistic and collaborative approach taken on this project will ensure a resilient and sustainable community moving forward and importantly it will provide a template along with confidence for other fragile communities who need to protect their futures.”