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February 9, 2011

New life for co-op

In the late 70’s, community cooperatives were seen as the best way to safeguard the survival of local shops and vital services in some of the most remote parts of the Scotland and for a while numbers flourished. However, during the 80’s and 90’s for different reasons many of these cooperatives closed. Today, although only ten of the original movement survive, they seem to be thriving once more. Indeed the Pairc Community Co-operative is set for significant expansion

Co-Chomunn na Pairc, the Pairc Community Co-operative who own and run the former school building at Ravenspoint, South Lochs, Lewis, on behalf of the local community have been successful in their bid to the Big Lottery Fund for a grant of nearly a quarter of a million pounds to enable the redevelopment of the building. Other funding has been provided by the Comhairle and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The project costing a total of £314,000 will provide a new extension overlooking Loch Erisort in which will be located an expanded tea-room and new kitchen and toilet facilities, which will free up space in the existing building for a larger community shop and more space for visitor attractions and a small meeting room. Construction is already underway and it is planned to complete the work by the summer. The funding also includes the creation of a new Operations Manager post for the expanded activities at Ravenspoint, which is now being advertised.

The successful funding application follows widespread consultation with local residents through a questionnaire last autumn, in which the plans received overwhelming approval, and letters of support from many individuals and organisations. The Co-Chomunn had been unsuccessful with a previous bid to the Big Lottery Fund in 2008, but persevered with revised plans to improve services and create further jobs in South Lochs – which has seen its population fall from 2000 to only 400 over the last century.

John Randall, chairman of Co-Chomunn na Pairc said:

‘The Big Lottery Fund decision is a huge step forward for the whole community of South Lochs. I should like to thank the Big Lottery Fund and our other funding partners for this vote of confidence in our future. I should also like to thank everyone in the community who has supported us in developing this project, despite previous setbacks. I know that these expressions of support played a crucial role in securing this grant. The funding will allow us to safeguard and improve the community shop, and provide more attractive facilities for local people and visitors alike, building on the area’s outstanding resources of landscape, wildlife, history and Gaelic culture.

We hope this project will enable us to realise more of the potential which exists at Ravenspoint, bringing together our hostel facilities, community shop, local history museum, and collections such as the Angus Macleod Archive, Derek Cooper Collection, and Patagonian Archive, for the overall good of the community. There are many opportunities to extend our Gaelic and other courses, guided walks in the local area, and improved facilities for local residents such as home deliveries from our shop and improved transport to and from Ravenspoint using the community bus.

In planning our future services at Ravenspoint, we want to reflect the wishes of local people, and will therefore be consulting regularly with members and other local groups. A further newsletter will be sent to all local residents shortly and an initial meeting is planned in the next few weeks.’

An appointment to the new Operations Manager post is expected to be made by March. The community shop will remain open throughout the construction of the extension, although it may be necessary temporarily to close the tea-room for a few weeks towards the end of the construction phase. For further details about the project, and all the services and attractions at Ravenspoint, please phone the Co-Chomunn on 01851 880236.