Last September we were approached by the Wilders/ Williams family who own the island of Tanera Mor. The family announced their intention to sell the island but first wanted to offer CCDC the opportunity to buy the island on behalf of the Coigach community. This was exciting news and following a public meeting, called by Richard Williams on 1st October to discuss the matter, it was agreed to investigate the options further. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) agreed to fund an options appraisal and financial review to help the community arrive at a decision – either to work towards a community buyout, or if declining, to allow the family to put the island on the open market in spring 2013. Whilst wholeheartedly welcoming the offer of community purchase, CCDC
chair Iain Muir sounded a note of caution when he stated that CCDC’s ability to take on the project would be a stumbling block: CCDC is run by a board of voluntary directors with two part-time development officers who are already working at full stretch on a number of important projects for community benefit.
Consultants were invited to tender for the options appraisal and financial review in December and Munro Gauld, who has considerable experience in community land management, was appointed to start work on the options appraisal, and accountants Scott-Moncrieff were appointed to undertake the financial review. Following a very thorough investigation, and broad community consultation via a questionnaire that went to every resident household in Coigach, Munro presented the findings of both studies to another Public Meeting called by CCDC on Thursday 7th February in Coigach Community Hall. It was clear from the appraisal and return from the questionnaires that while there was a very positive response to the Wilders’ generosity in their offer to the community, it was regrettably too large a project for the community to take on at present.
It was a good humoured and cheerful meeting with many thoughtful, imaginative and positive comments from those present who confirmed the findings of the appraisal: that while community purchase may not be an option, working with the Wilders and Williams to promote the sale could be extremely beneficial to all concerned. What the appraisal also revealed, was that buying Tanera presented a fantastic opportunity for someone – or a group – with resources, energy and enthusiasm who can work with the community to realise its full potential as an integral part of Coigach.
The largest, and only inhabited of the Summer Isles, Tanera attracts yachts, cruisers and watersports enthusiasts as well as visitors to its residential activity holidays, café, and world famous Summer Isles Post Office which publishes its own stamps. The new owners, whoever they turn out to be, have the opportunity of not only owning a fantastic island surrounded by spectacular scenery, but of being part of a strong, vibrant Highland community.
The meeting concluded with a proposal from the Chair that: ‘We support the conclusion of the questionnaire that we do not pursue the generous offer made for community purchase of Tanera Mor. In coming to this conclusion we recognise that the future of the island plays an important part in the future of the wider Coigach community. As such we undertake to assist the owners in finding a purchaser who will serve the interests of both them and the rest of the community’. The proposal was supported by a show of hands in favour.
CCDC will continue to work enthusiastically on its many other projects in hand which include proposals to erect a community wind turbine to generate much needed income which will be used for social housing , workshop units to encourage business activity and to support other local organisations, facilities and initiatives. Other projects include a micro hydro scheme in partnership with local landowner Scottish Wildlife Trust, a feasibility study with a view to community purchase of the local piers, and the Achiltibuie Smokehouse which the Company is also hoping to purchase through the Community Right to Buy process.
Coigach Community Development Company are keen to acknowledge the generosity and co-operation of Bill and Jean Wilder, their sons Jack and Harry, and their daughter and son in law Lizzie and Richard Williams in offering the community the opportunity to buy Tanera, and the information and help they have supplied so far. While we are declining with regret, we look forward to working together towards a positive outcome for all. We would also like to thank HIE for their help in funding the studies undertaken to help in the process, and all those community members who took part in the consultations and meetings.
The Wilder family greatly appreciate the effort made by the community of Coigach to consider the opportunity of taking on Tanera. We fully understand their reasons for deciding not to, and we hope that whoever owns the Island in the future will enjoy the same warm and cooperative relationship with the community that we have for the past 17 years.
Lizzie & Richard Williams 12/2/13
Coigach Community Development Company
Chair: Iain Muir 01854 622 302 firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Development Officers: Julia Campbell 01854 622 379 Peter Muir 01854 622 444 email@example.com
Isle of Tanera Mor
Lizzie and Richard Williams firstname.lastname@example.org