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February 25, 2009

Skye community decide on last ditch bid for reservoir

A small reservoir in the south of Skye has become surplus to requirements, and despite been informed of community interest in mounting a buy- out, Scottish Water have put it up for sale by public auction. On hearing the news, community groups held an emergency meeting and are taking steps to halt the public sale by using Land Reform legislation

Residents in the south of Skye are considering a community buyout of a former water supply reservoir, it emerged yesterday.

Community groups are hoping to halt the sale of the Allt Duisdale reservoir, close to the village of Isleornsay in Sleat, which is due to go under the hammer at an auction in Glasgow next week.

Scottish Water put the three-acre site on the market as it has become redundant following the creation of a larger scheme farther south in the peninsula.

At an emergency meeting earlier this week a number of community groups, including the Camuscross Community Initiative, agreed to use Land Reform legislation to try to halt the sale to give them time to consider buying the lochan.

But last night a spokesman for Scottish Water said that, although it had been contacted by the group, it is unwilling to withdraw their surplus asset from the market.

Instead, he invited the group to bid for the picturesque site at the auction.

He said: “We are duty bound by government rules – the Public Finance Manual – which says that we must dispose of any surplus assets to minimise our maintenance costs and health and safety liabilities.

“We do make other public bodies aware and consider if any local interest has been expressed but if no one is interested we put the item to a public auction so anyone can bid for it. This also enables us to get best value for the item. We then reinvest the money raised to keep customer bills down.” He added: “While we appreciate their position we obviously have to bear in mind our responsibility to all our customers by disposing of this surplus asset swiftly and for a good price.”

The reservoir, which is about 50ft deep and 20ft wide, was created in the 1950s to supply the villages of Duisdale Mor, Duisdale Beag, Eilean Iarmain and Camuscross.

Representatives of Camuscross Community Initiative, Sleat Renewables and Sleat Community Trust met on Tuesday to discuss the sale. They agreed the Camuscross organisation was best placed to put a late registration of interest on the land.

They hope that if the move is successful, they will have six months to organise a community ballot and, if the majority are in favour, raise the capital to buy the land.

Donnie MacKinnon, of Camuscross Community Iniative, said he was unaware of Scottish Water’s stance on the issue and added that the group only became aware that the reservoir was up for sale when it was advertised in a local paper last week.

He said: “I’ll have to discuss our next move with the rest of the group.”

Earlier, he said: “In Sleat we are just starting to grow the seeds of ideas to develop the land in order to increase the resilience and sustainability of the community. It is our earnest hope that the Scottish Government and Scottish Water feel able to encourage these seeds.”