This report marks the end of our sixth year of operation in which we continued to pursue the goals identified by members of the community when the company was established. These are, essentially, to help Coigach achieve sustainability and growth in challenging times. Never an objective to be achieved in a short space of time we continue on the paths we have established and informed you of in the past.
Our main strategy is to secure sources of long-term income and to then spend that money in the community to help us collectively and individually achieve a range of things we can all benefit from.
I make no apologies for essentially repeating the wording and structure from last year’s Chairman’s report. We’re on the same track but considerably further down the road than this time last year in achieving our medium term goals.
Again I must thank CCDC’s staff of Julia Campbell and Abigail Anne Campbell, and Linda Macleod who covered for Abigail Anne before she returned from sick leave, and our volunteer directors for their hard work throughout the year. Thanks also go to those volunteer directors of our subsidiary companies who are not directors of CCDC – Alison Sinclair for Coigach Wind Power Ltd and Peter Drake for Ben Mor Hydro Ltd. We are, as previously, greatly indebted to HIE for their continuing financial support of CCDC through paying staff wages and costs and providing generous grant support on several of our projects.
CCDC Directors serving this year have been (in alphabetic order): Steve Husband, Ann (AB) Macleod, Iain Muir (Chair), Iain Scott and Phil Shaughnessy. As ever we are looking for fresh blood on our board of directors and would encourage members to propose and appoint new directors who share our commitment and vision for community sustainability and development – too late for new directors at this AGM unless previously nominated but we can co-opt directors at any time and if anyone is interested please do come and have a chat about it.
The format of this year’s report is as before with input from directors concerned with Coigach Wind Power Ltd and Ben Mor Hydro Ltd who will update us on their respective activities since our last AGM. We did have a public meeting in association with Coigach Community Council in October when we gave an update on activities and some of you may have heard much of what we have to say then – however, things are moving at a fast pace and we have more to report.
At last year’s AGM we reported on the activities of our then two subsidiary companies I just mentioned – CWP and BMH. This year I must make mention of two other subsidiaries we have – Coigach Community CIC and CCDC Trading Ltd (both of which Steve will mention). The need for these new companies reflects various legal complexities and is something which we intend rationalising with a piece of work being led by Iain Scott, our Vice Chair, to establish CCDC as a charity with appropriate subsidiaries to allow us to distribute funds from the renewables projects in the most efficient manner.
Looking at this past year’s activities I shall concentrate on those things which occupy most of our time and effort, being the priorities for a sustainable community:
Land and Housing
Provision of housing for young families and new residents remains a priority for us – and it also remains a challenge. There are probably more houses on the market locally now than there have been for many years which is perhaps a mixed blessing – more supply generally results in lower prices which may bring properties within the financial reach of people living locally, but these properties are generally priced at holiday home levels, most in fact being holiday homes, and as such above the price which those on local incomes can afford.
As far as what CCDC has managed to achieve directly, the renovation and conversion of the former Achiltibuie Schoolhouse which we acquired is proceeding to plan and is due to be ready for occupation next month. The project is being carried out on our behalf by HSCHT to create one one- bedroom flat and one two-bedroom flat. We plan to arrange an open day to allow members of the community to see what we’re offering. I should say there has been a lot of interest from prospective tenants for the flats – confirming, if we needed more evidence, that there is strong demand for this type of housing in the community. Whilst we were very successful in attracting funding for the Schoolhouse renovation (largely Julia’s hard work) there was one item that we have no money for, so watch this space for a soup-and–sandwiches to raise money to give the outside wall a new lick of paint.
Be assured we won’t be resting on our laurels with the Schoolhouse project completed – we will be looking for further opportunity to help in the provision of locally owned social housing, with opportunities mentioned in the past still potentially available.
I would note in passing that the site of the former Achiltibuie Hydroponicum remains derelict more than a year after we gave up our interest in it under SG Community Right to Buy. The owners of the site claimed, rather noisily, that our interest was preventing them from undertaking any development.
Turning now to the Smokehouse. This year saw the establishment of Rachel Macleod’s ‘Steamie’ laundry service in part of the building. We made the space available on an initial rent-free basis to help Rachel get her business established, reflecting our ethos of helping new businesses in the community. We are currently responding to interest expressed by other potential tenants who have recently approached us. The building is also being used for storage of Coigach Community Trust property. In the longer term we have options for exploring major re-development of the site through lottery funding.
The anticipated steady income stream from our two renewable energy projects is vital for our community development plans – for investment and support for community projects, organisations, businesses and individuals. To bring us up to date with developments I’ll hand over now to….
[Over to Steve Husband, Director of CWP Ltd and ex of BMH Ltd]
Badentarbet Pier and Old Dornie Harbour
Just a brief word on Old Dornie – planned developments here are being led by the community’s Pier Users Group. CCDC’s involvement currently has been to source funding for a study through HIE which will refine details for improving and expanding facilities at Old Dornie. One note of warning is that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund which had been identified as a potential source of
capital funding for developing our harbour facilities is likely to fall victim to Brexit and we don’t know if it will be replaced by a similar scheme.
With the great success achieved by Richard Williams and his team in attracting substantial funding for Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape’s Landscape Partnership programme we, as partners in the project, have been involved in planning a number of projects which we look forward to being implemented in the current months – these include footpaths and music heritage project.
We continued our discussions with Scottish Wildlife Trust about the future of Acheninver Youth Hostel, after the lease was given up by SYHA. In consultation with CCDC the lease was advertised and following interview was offered to new Achiltibuie residents Ian Simpson and Ruth Bradley – a very welcome development for all and we look forward to their new business going from strength to strength.
On broadband, we have been involved in the developments underway to bring superfast broadband to the wider Lochbroom and surrounding areas. There have been one or two false starts on this with various grand but ultimately empty promises from providers but we now hope that our association with Ullapool Community Trust’s ‘Highland Community Broadband’ CIC will bear fruit – and we know many community members have signed up with them since we invited them here to outline their plans in September.
We continue to be involved with the network of small remote communities throughout the Highlands and islands which, like us are supported by HIE, and as before we meet with and share experiences and ideas with these communities in a process which allows us to learn from the experiences, successes and pitfalls others have encountered.
We continue to provide community members with information about the activities we undertake on their behalf. We have our online presences, with the CCDC website the CCDC Facebook page, the CCDC Twitter account and Coigach Wind Power’s website. We continue to publish and distribute editions of our newsletter, place minutes and other relevant documents in the Post Office and post notices in the community hall and in the Ullapool News. Our LDOs are present in the hall for consultation on Wednesday mornings to coincide with all the other activities taking place then. I would make a plea that if there’s anything you would like more information on, rather than sitting back and waiting for it, just ask! Most of us involved in CCDC are volunteers and busy people, but we’ll always find time to talk to you!
That brings my report to an end. It just remains for me to thank all the members for their support during the year and hope that we continue to receive it.
Chair, Coigach Community Development Company