Recommended Reading for Communiteers!

 Community Ownership of land in the Highlands and Islands of ScotlandFrom the Low Tide of the Sea to the Highest Mountain Top
by James Hunter

with photographs by Cailean Maclean

Community Ownership of Land in the Highlands and Islands

In recent years, communities in the Scottish Highlands and Islands have taken ownership of more than half a million acres – an area equivalent to that of an English county like Nottinghamshire or West Yorkshire. In places long characterised by contracting economies and shrinking populations, this remarkable development has resulted in new homes, new businesses, greatly enhanced self-confidence and the attraction of lots of new residents.

ISBN 978-1-907443-28-2

On sale from the Ceilidh Place Bookshop or direct from Islands Book Trust

http://www.theislandsbooktrust.com/store/books/from-the-low-tide-of-the-sea-to-the-highest-mountain-top/

 

Featured in Guardian/Observer Travel

Splendid isolation: looking out from Loch Broom to the Summer Isles. Click on the magnifying glass icon to see a large version of the image. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Observer

www.guardian.co.uk

Journalist Paul Webster visited Coigach as a youngster and came back recently to see if it was as good as he remembered. To summarise: it was!  All  in all Mr Webster has written  an enthusiastic piece which gives a very positive impression to the potential visitor  though as locals were quick to point out, there were are few inaccuracies: we have TWO whole shops, which between them serve the community with a wide variety of goods and services and the school has not been downgraded to a one teacher establishment…..yet.  The CCDC continutes to work hard towards our goal of providing  housing to encourage young families with children to live here. The happy news that the wind turbine can be transported here means we are a little step further towards a sustainable income but there’s lot of work to do – not least finding a suitable site for housing development.

We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors spurred on by Mr Webster’s article – and if they want to come and live here too so much the better. Vibrant community, excellent little school, fantastic scenery in an unpolluted environment, fun for all ages – what’s not to like?

For accommodation and visitor information go to  Achiltibuie Tourist Association’s own website www.coigach.com

(Click the link to read the whole article – but if that doesn’t work, we’ve pasted it into Coigach Connections for posterity.)

Scots Wha Hae wi Wallace Stone

Our appointed engineering consultants  Wallace Stone working on Badentarbet Pier. With suitable tides and good weather they spent the morning diving off the pier inspecting below the water, and the afternoon  making notes, taking measurements while drying off in the beautiful spring sunshine.

This project (Coigach Piers Feasibility Study) is being part-financed by Coigach Community Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Summer Isles Enterprises, Coigach Community Development Company and The European Community Highland Leader 2007 – 2012 Programme.

Site Visit to Achavraie Burn

A walk to the head-waters of Achavraie burn

On Friday 28th October, John Duncanson and Gordon Robertson (Consulting Engineers) came for a look at Achavraie Burn, the site for proposed micro-hydro scheme for Coigach. Accompanied by Steve Husband and Alison Hitchings of CCDC’s energy sub-group and local businessman Peter Drake who was one of the main movers and shakers responsible for Coigach’s splendid Community Hall.

For this joint venture for CCDC and landowners Scottish Wildlife Trust a new company – Ben Mor Hydro Ltd –  has been formed and following tendering and interviews BMH Ltd was delighted to appoint John Duncanson to carry out a feasibility study. The study will consider all aspects of the scheme and will carry the process through to the planning stage.

Complementary to our proposed wind turbine, this is another promising project to make use of our natural resources: every rain cloud could potentially have a silver lining for the Community!

Old Hydroponicum ballot result.

Coigach Community Development Company is pleased to report the results of the postal ballot on the former Hydroponicum buildings and land:

In response to the question asked: – “Are you in favour of the purchase (subject to funding) of the former Hydroponicum buildings and land by the Coigach Community Development Company, to be managed for the benefit of the community?”,

the result was:

Yes:  148  (91.9% of voters)

No:  12  (7.5% of voters)

There was one spoilt ballot paper.

 220 ballot papers were issued, and 161 valid ballot papers were returned, a percentage return of 73.2%.   No proxy votes were requested.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to think carefully about this issue, who voted and contributed to such a good turnout and supportive result.  Many thanks also to John Bruce and his team at Highland Council, who administered the ballot and counted the returns. 

With that fantastic result behind us we’re busy now with the next steps in the process of acquiring the land and putting it to better long-term use for the community – and that includes putting together the business plan, organising a feasibility study, speaking with housing associations, getting quotes for site development and raising the capital we require. The route we’ll likely be taking for raising the funds will see most of it coming from grant and loan, with the loan being re-paid by rental income. Following this route we’ll also have to raise some funds from the community – and we’ve already got well over £1,000 pledged by just a handful of community-minded individuals in just one day.

If you feel you’d like to contribute a donation to this great cause, just speak with any one of the directors or with Peter or Linda.

Keep watching upcoming posts for how the community buyout develops over the coming weeks.

Brave New Future for Old Hydroponicum?

Business /workshop units AT LAST for Coigach? … and affordable housing possibilities? … and MORE?

The Coigach community now has the chance to buy the old Achiltibuie Hydroponicum building together with the surrounding three acres of land (from road to shore) to use for community benefit.

This is as a result of the CCDC registering an interest in the site under the Land Reform Act on behalf of the community.

To proceed with the purchase, the CCDC must produce a feasibility study and business plan and undertake a community ballot soon (watch this space!), but before embarking on these steps we want to show residents of Coigach what currently happens in the building and hear views and ideas about what you’d like to see happening there in the future.

Please come along to the Hydroponicum on  Tuesday 28th June at either 4pm or 7pm to inspire or be inspired.

Click on ‘Old Hydroponicum’ tab above for latest news and background.

Coigach 2020 – what’s your vision?

 We have put together a vision for Coigach in 2020 – an ideal ‘written picture’ of what our community could look like.  The idea is that we look at the ideal then work backwards, to see how we could achieve this.  Is this vision your vision?
Our traditional industries of  and crofting are a vital part of our employment, our culture and our landscape. Coigach produce is well renowned for its quality and our are celebrated far and wide.  These strengths link into our tourism, and visitors are keen to take up the opportunities to experience our qualities as part of their holiday.  Our community enjoys local produce from local businesses, and our shops and local trades are well supported.

Visitor numbers to Coigach are healthy, given the good range of quality accommodation and our mix of visitor attractions and activities.  Our visitor season never really ceases as a significant improvement in provision of short stay accommodation encourages local businesses to offer seminars, training /teaching and activity events – and businesses flourish on the back of the additional short stay accommodation in all seasons.  Touring visitors can now easily lengthen their stay in Coigach.

 Our well established heritage centre offers locals and tourists alike the opportunity to enjoy, learn from and contribute to the fascinating legacy of our social and cultural history.

 The availability of additional affordable housing  has encouraged families to settle here, and a healthy mixture of social and private enterprise offer our young people satisfying and varied work opportunities.  Improved business infrastructure,  good tele-communications and new crofts have added to their opportunities.

 The 2010 Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes (CALL) initiative is encouraging the development of habitats to strengthen local biodiversity. This initiative involving crofters, the community and land owners creates land based .

 The local primary school is flourishing and our teenagers are encouraged to take advantage of   opportunities, part funded by proceeds from the community renewable energy project.   Pre-school education and mother and baby  groups are provided in the community hall.  Our older population are well catered for within our community.  Our emergency and is responsive to local needs.”

What’s your view of this vision?  Post a comment!    

It’s Official! Coigach is a great place to live!

The recent community survey of Coigach has been completed and the results analysed. It makes fascinating reading – click on the Survey Results tab above.

The same survey has been conducted by HIE in many remote communities from Argyll to Shetland …and the comment has come back that compared to many other places, Coigach residents feel very positive about their community.

Needless to say the negative things we all know about have been highlighted too – and there were no surprises in that list (housing, jobs, workplaces, etc). It’s good to get evidence from across the community that these issues are important – it helps strengthen arguments we can make (to funders, politicians, etc) to get them resolved.

If you filled in one of the questionnaire forms yourself, you’ll know it was a bit dry (we didn’t write it!), so some of the report deals with questions that were of more interest to HIE than us, but have a read and see what you think!

Film companies beat track to Coigach!

If proof were needed that Coigach has world-beating scenery no matter what the time of year,  you need look no further than the very recently released international blockbuster film ‘The Eagle’ – part of which was filmed here. Director: the world-famous Kevin MacDonald (‘The Last King of Scotland’, ‘Into the Void’) and starring Donald Sutherland, Jamie Bell (‘Billy Elliot’), Channing Tatum (‘G I Joe’, ‘Step Up’) and Mark Strong.

Above: star Jamie Bell above Fox Point at the village set with Tanera Mor in the background.

Film-dom hit Coigach in late 2009 with the roar of massive, tracked, film-company mega-vehicles – as a skilled crew of set designers, film craftspeople, and mallet-wielding muscle  re-modelled part of Fox Point into a ‘Seal People’ neolithic-style village … with ‘ancient’ roundhouses of glass fibre so realistically painted as to fool even the closest observer.

Almost every holiday house on the peninsula was booked for camera people, technicians, horse-handlers, the director and his team, and the Summer Isles Hotel for the top ‘talent’,  Jamie and Channing ….or Chan as he insisted we called him as he set up the drinks at the bar!

Now the feature film has hit the Box Office in the States and Britain ….with a special showing locally in March for Achiltibuie to thank everyone involved.  Locals were in the thick of it –  everything from providing accommodation, food, nursing services, extras, helping to look after and stable the horses, to organising a Grand Ceilidh in our Community Hall, (where the film office was based) for the stars and crew at the end of the Coigach section of filming.

Hope you all spotted that they were galloping over Achnahaird beach and the shots of the Summer Isles and the area around Loch Badagyle even in that short trail-feature.

Shortly after shooting ended for ‘The Eagle’ another film company was in Coigach making a ‘Tartan Short’ style film involving a bus load of American Tourists in a ‘back to the future’ encounter with the Picts!

All in all an Autumn season’s work for the sensational scenery, quality accommodation and resourceful community of Coigach.

Bring it on, Hollywood!