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July 26, 2017

Places need people

At this year’s Community Land Scotland conference, one of the key themes to be explored was the importance of repopulation as a factor in how we think about developing and managing Scotland’s landscape. If people are unable to forge a life for themselves, with proper access to land for housing and work, many remote rural communities simply cease to be sustainable, with the effect of simply adding to Scotland’s vast empty wildernesses. This is why projects like the one recently completed on Mull are so important. Small in scale but with massive local impact. 



Community housing project repopulates threatened remote island scheme

The Ulva Ferry community on the Isle of Mull have welcomed two new families who have moved into the first designated affordable rental housing to be built in the area for decades.

Just six years ago, the community was under threat of losing its primary school due to long-term population decline brought about by the lack of affordable housing options for young people.  Now, with the families bringing six children to the area, Ulva Ferry’s future sustainability has been assured.

The new houses have been built as a joint venture between the Ulva School Community Association (USCA) and Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT), and are situated right next to Ulva Primary School. 

The Ulva Ferry community have been at the heart of the project from the outset: from choosing the architect and finalising the design, to agreeing the allocation policy.  Community-led housing projects are never the easy option, but the completion of these houses is testament to the dedication of local community members and the project team.

The Housing Project has been funded by the Scottish Land Fund, Argyll & Bute Council, the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, the Quaker Housing Trust, the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund, Triodos Bank, USCA, a significant anonymous bequest, and over £22,500 in local donations through a high-profile crowdfunding campaign.

New tenant, Samantha Wright, said, “We are thrilled to be moving into this beautiful new home, everyone has been very welcoming and our daughter can’t wait to settle into Ulva Primary School.  Having previously had to move frequently from one private let to another, it is very comforting to know we can make this house our long-term home.”

Housing Project Manager, Helen MacDonald, said, “We are just delighted to see these two families moving into the new houses, we hope they are very happy in them for many years to come.  This community housing project proves that social housing can be innovative and stylish, as well as affordable for tenants to live in.  The level of interest from potential tenants was significant, giving us the impetus to plan further affordable housing in the Ulva Ferry area.”

Invaluable support on the project was also provided by West Highland Housing Association, Rural Housing Scotland, Community Land Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  The innovative houses have been built by local contractors Norman MacDonald Builders, and designed by Tobermory-based Thorne Wyness Architects, using Passive House principles: the very modern design and technical systems, with high insulation levels offers tenants very low heating bills, as well as affordable rents.