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Development officer recruited for west side of Lewis

04 October 2010

A development officer has been employed to help a small community on the west side of the Isle of Lewis to create an economic, social, and cultural plan for their future growth.

Urras Tac Chalanais has recruited John Smith for the Callanish area through an initiative being run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

HIE is supporting up to 40 communities in the most fragile areas of the Highlands and Islands by funding key posts to work locally with a range of community groups.

John, 49, will lead on ambitious plans for the community of Callanish, which include an all facilities camp site, cycle track and paths network, and a crofting heritage centre. The post will not only deliver the trust's projects but will also work with the wider community plan for the whole of the Callanish area.

For the past fifteen years, John has been involved in delivering community development schemes on the Isle of Lewis and more recently operated as an agent for the Scottish Rural Development Programme.

Urras Tac Chalanais, or Callanish Farm Trust was formed in 2006 and comprises six directors from the community of Callanish which has a population of 138. The trust was formed to take ownership of land known as Callanish Farm, extending to 75 hectares, which was occupied by the local people in the 1800s. In the 1920s it was gifted by Lord Leverhulme to the Macrae family who operated the local post office on the site and delivered the mail to Bernera and Uig by boat. Three subsequent owners have occupied the land for the last 25 years which was duly gifted to the community by its last owner Edinburgh University in 2007.

John is looking forward to moving the trust's ambitious plans forward. He said: "I am delighted to be appointed as the local development officer for Callanish and look forward to raising the profile of the area and delivering projects which will provide local employment, increase flow of income in the community and raise awareness and knowledge of local historical and cultural issues. We hope to establish a croft heritage centre to highlight both the crofting history of the people and an interpretation of the area's culture which would service the wider community and visitors alike."

As well as being part funded by the European Union's LEADER programme and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, support is also provided from a HIE member of staff. HIE development manager, Lewis Mackenzie will be working closely with the community group.

Lewis Mackenzie said: "We have assisted Urras Tac Chalanais to complete an ambitious business plan. The community itself will control and drive the development, and we will be on hand to provide the support they need. We want to help communities carry out sustainable community action planning and deliver projects of direct benefit to them."

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