The Former Hydroponicum and other news

Spring cleaning!

Following a meeting (open to all those on Coigach’s electoral roll) on Thursday 14th May in Achiltibuie, and extensive community consultation the directors of CCDC have agreed not to pursue re-registration of Community Interest in the former hydroponicum site. Whatever happens to the land now, we hope it will will bring some benefit to the community in another way – and CCDC has several other projects on the go which are keeping us busy.

Achiltibuie Schoolhouse: we we will soon be taking over ownership from The Highland Council adn will then lease the property to Highland Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) who  will refurbish the building and convert it into two rentable flats.

Former Achiltibuie Smokehouse: since Summer Isles Foods packed up and moved to Alness, the empty building is now in community ownership. We have appointed Alison SInclair as the new Development Officer who will take this project further towards refurbishment and a new lease of life.

Community wind turbine and hydro scheme: we now have Locogen (a multi-disciplinary energy company) on the case so we’re making progress on these all-important projects that will in turn help fund all the other things we have to do.

Old Dornie Harbour: needs extensive improvements to make it fit for purpose as it is essential to our local fishing, fish-farming and leisure industries and we need to find funding to do this. Eventually the income from the renewables projects will help.

Broadband: connectivity is as important in Coigach as it is anywhere – perhaps more so given our remote location so we want to make sure our community doesn’t get left behind.

Paths: in partnership with Coigach Assynt Living Landscape we are working on improvements and developments to the local paths network to improve infrastructure for visitors and locals alike.

Acheninver Youth Hostel: this is SYHA’s last year of leasing the building however we hope to help owners Scottish Wildlife Trust find new tenants as we don’t want to lose this iconic facility that has been bringing visitors to Coigach for about 70 years or more.

And we have the office to tidy up….

And perhaps also  time for a little reminder that CCDC’s directors are hard-working volunteers who put in many hours of their valuable time for the benefit of the wider community.  We’d all like to wish Peter Muir all the best on his retirement and thank him for the many years of work he has contributed – both as employee and the countless extra time he has put in particularly in regards to our renewables projects. And thanks too to Ben Walton, who has been our treasurer for the past four years and has now stepped down as a volunteer director.

Here’s who we are:

Volunteer Directors:
Chair – Iain Muir

Vice Chair – Iain Scott

Phil Shaughnessy

Ann Macleod

Steve Husband

Employees:

Anne Campbell, Local Development Officer

Linda Macleod currently standing in for Anne Campbell as Local Development Officer who is on sick leave

Alison Sinclair, Smokehouse Development Officer

Julia Campbell, Local Development Officer

And we have over 100 members – that’s over half the community!

Great support for our Planning Application…

It’s been heartening to see the many statements of support on the Highland Council ePlanning website for the community turbine – mostly from local residents and also many of our ‘diaspora’ who were brought up here and still call it home, and many others who have long and strong associations with Coigach and are known by many here. Every one is a considered and balanced view, from people who see the proposal in the round, acknowledging that the benefits to the community far outweigh any impact a turbine may have for those who are set against them. Here’s a great example from the website from local schoolboy Joseph Peach – it’s a bit of a long read, but worth every word of it:

“I am writing to you to express my wholehearted support for the Achiltibuie’s community wind turbine planning bid, reference: 13/02582/FUL. Having spent my whole life in the village I, along with the majority of the local population understand the hardships of living in a small community and believe that the benefits of this wind turbine would do much to alleviate or lessen some of these difficulties. Along with the majority of the young adult population of Achiltibuie, I am soon going to leave the village to participate in higher education, but I know for a fact that like many others I do one day wish to return to Achiltibuie and settle. This is something which is becoming increasingly difficult to do though, due to a lack of jobs, opportunities and affordable housing. The sad fact is that Achiltibuie is becoming a place where locals are being priced out of the housing market, the school roll is dropping year on year and a place where young people are finding it impossible to either return or continue to live in Achiltibuie. I strongly believe that the proposed wind turbine would help to reverse the decline in the population of Achiltibuie. I have no doubt that the CCDC will be able to use its income to create affordable housing and business opportunities. In my opinion, the success of this wind turbine is vital to the future of my home. While there are opponents to this scheme, it is my opinion that its potential benefits greatly outweigh the possible negatives. While the wind turbine will make a visual change to Achiltibuie’s iconic landscape, I find it hard to believe that this change would have any impact at all on the local tourist industry. Since the Burradale wind farm in Shetland was erected in December 2000, the number of available tourist beds in Shetland increased from 1677 to 1777. While this is not a massive increase, I feel it exemplifies the point that any sort of wind turbine development does not necessarily equate to a decline in the tourist industry. There are also those who argue that the proposed development will spoil Achiltibuie’s “iconic landscape” or “beautiful scenery”. As a local I am hugely appreciative of my surroundings and feel privileged to be able to live amongst them, but I think that there needs to be an understanding of the fact that Achiltibuie is not just an image on a postcard, or an idyllic retreat. It is a living breathing place where locals work hard to make a living. To me it seems selfish and inconsiderate for anyone to bemoan the local population’s attempts to preserve their community and ensure its continuing existence on the argument of the visual impact of a 55 meter wind turbine. To put its “impact” into perspective it is worth noting that this 55 meter wind turbine will be located next to a 743 meter peak in a very small area of the 50 square miles that make up the Coigach peninsula. To conclude, I believe that this wind turbine is vital to the future health of my community. I one day wish to return to Achiltibuie and I am sure that the income from this turbine would help to make this feasible. I do not wish to see more local businesses close, young local people having to leave in search of opportunities or the school role declining any further than it already has. I hope that you’ll take this into consideration when making a decision on the planning application of Coigach Wind Power Ltd.”

What a great endorsement of our community project! Have you submitted a supporting comment yet? Please do by simply following the links on our previous post on this site…and if you already have, then thank you!

School Reports

Previous school roll at Achiltibuie
Past Times!

An A+ for Anna Macleod from Altandubh who received outstanding results in her highers by achieving six (yes SIX!) A passes in Biology, Chemistry, French, Spanish, Maths and English.  Anna’s Head Teacher, Peter Harrison of Ullapool High School believes this is the highest pass rate achieved in the Highlands this year . It’s  a remarkable result and a reflection of Anna’ s natural ability, the dedication and hard work she puts in to her studies, excellent teaching and support from family and those around her.

We are lucky in Coigach: we have a lovely group of confident, competent young people who mix happily with the community and contribute in a huge way to our life here. It is often commented on by visitors! Just the other day we held a traditional music session in the hall, with young musicians to the fore,  jamming  with a cross section of professional and enthusiastic older players. And on a musical note, farewell and good luck to our CCDC Junior Rep and young musician Joseph Peach, who,  with a pile of highers under his belt,  is off to Plockton’s Traditional Music School with like-minded youngsters. Well done to all our teenagers: Anna, Joseph, Abi, Alice and Nina for doing well in their highers and  for just being great all round. A bright future beckons you all!

Proof perhaps that Achiltibuie is a great place for children, it’s all the more important that we give every encouragement to families to live here. Sadly though, there is no Primary One this year, two in pre school and three babies with the result that the school roll will continue to decrease for the forseeable future.  If we get our community wind turbine up and running,  building family houses with the income will be a priority. And perhaps, we can follow other communities who offer scholarships and assistance to young people who inevitably head off for the exiting (but costly) experience of further education further afield.   Catch up on progress on the website   Coigach Wind Power Ltd.

School Roll Coigach
This Year

Good Wind Forecast

Coigach Community Development Company

At last night’s directors’ meeting we met Andy Oldroyd of Oldbaum Services Ltd (www.oldbaumservices.co.uk) who gave a brief but very encouraging resume of his analysis of the data Oldbaum have been collecting from our meteorological mast on the site of our proposed community wind turbine. Meanwhile, Atmos Consulting Ltd have almost completed their very thorough report which examines  the environmental  issues including ornithology and we are looking forward to receiving that within the next few weeks. Another step nearer to our submission for planning permission!

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.)