Ann-Marie Hewitt explains how community ownership has transformed North Harris and encouraged neighbouring Scalpay to get invovled
The 25,900 hectares of North Harris makes up one of the largest community owned estates in Scotland.
The North Harris Trust aims to increase employment opportunities, address local housing needs, and protect and enhance North Harris’s wonderful cultural and natural heritage.
In 2013 we celebrated our 10th anniversary of community ownership and over the years the trust has been involved in a number of ways in a range of projects.
We have taken ownership of a number of projects and have taken these forward on our own.
We have worked on some projects in partnership with other individuals or organisations and we have given advice to other organisations or individuals.
The work of the trust has been spread throughout the whole of the estate. The most visible presence the trust has is in Tarbert, where our offices are located. However, we have been involved in activities in virtually all the villages in North Harris.
The trust currently employs eight staff who run the estate and take forward projects and initiatives to meet our aims and objectives. This is an increase from only two members of staff when the trust was formed.
In 2011 the owner of the neighbouring island of Scalpay, Fred Taylor, offered to transfer the island to the community for free. After a feasibility study, and a process of community consultation, Scalpay residents were balloted over the islands future, and voted to join with the North Harris Trust in 2013. Mr Taylor had seen the benefits of community ownership in other areas, including North Harris, and hopes that Scalpay will be able to achieve great things with its own land, with his vision for the future of the community owned island being one of enterprise, small business and families.
Ann-Marie Hewitt is the Scalpay development officer at North Harris Trust