Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

May 20, 2009

Western Isles community continue to aim high

In 2006, the islanders of South Uist paid £4.5 million to take ownership of their estate in what is still the largest community buy-out in Scotland.  Since then the community trust – Storas Uibhist- has made considerable progress to secure the community’s long term future. A central part of the plan is a community owned windfarm which it is estimated could inject £27million into the local economy

The beleaguered economy of South Uist could be boosted by a total of £27million from a community windfarm, it has emerged.

The scheme may be built as soon as this autumn on crofters’ grazings on moorland by Loch Carnan.

A study for community landlord Stòras Uibhist has identified Benbecula common grazings, which has an existing access track north of Loch Olabhat, as a good second choice, followed by Beinn a’Charra and Beinn Coraraidh.

Rare wild birds such as the golden eagle, sea eagle, peregrine falcons and red throated divers use the Loch Carnan site and there is said to be a risk, though small, of killing some over the 25-year lifetime of the scheme.

The £8.5million construction of three 328ft tall turbines is being led by community landlords Stòras Uibhist.

It is the largest initiative being progressed since islanders bought out the sporting estate for £4.5million two years ago.

Shares would be sold to individual islanders to help raise money to build the development.

Western Isles Council is to debate its go-ahead at a special meeting later this month.

Highlands and Islands Airports have lodged an objection until a full assessment is made on the impact of nearby Balivanich airport.

If successful, a £75,000 payout would go to the Western Isles Development Trust, with £375,500 of site rentals split between Stòras Uibhist and Iochdar Hill grazings committee.

Regular dividends from the share sell-off should return £3.5million direct to local islanders and, over the lifetime of the windfarm, the accumulated value to the economy should amount to around £27million.

Stòras Uibhist said it was proposed to underwrite the project from £1million lottery cash plus the £1.5 million share issue on top of £6 million from the bank.

If the lottery bid fails the project can still go-ahead with extra bank funding though this would mean lower returns to the community.

The major slice of profits would go to the Stòras Uibhist which said it would reinvest it in community regeneration projects like a major redevelopment of Lochboisdale harbour, new housing, land management, an archive centre, a social enterprise park and the upgrade of Grogarry Lodge.