The remote Wester Ross community of Applecross will celebrate the official launch of its newly refurbished filling station on Friday (23 July).
The filling station, which belongs to the community and is managed through Applecross Community Company, now has two new pumps and a credit card reader which allows it to operate unmanned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteers carry out all management and administration of the filling station.
Chair of the community company, Alison Macleod, explained: "Creating the community company was the only way to keep the filling station going and we were determined to ensure the service had a viable future. We realised immediately that in the longer term the limited turnover was never going to allow us to employ somebody to sell fuel, so we applied for funding to allow us to replace the old pumps with a new automatic system. In the meantime we have managed thanks to the hard work of the 26 local volunteers who for seven months manned the empty unheated shop building, even in the depths of winter, to ensure a reliable fuel supply."
The community company has been supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) which worked with them on their growth plan for the business. It has received grants from the Big Lottery Fund's Growing Community Assets programme, and the Rural Priorities strand of the Scottish Rural Development Programme, and these, with a contribution from the Applecross Trust, which owns the local estate, covered the cost of the £40,000 refurbishment.
Lindsay Campbell is HIE's account manager for the Applecross Community Company. She said: "We have been working on a programme of support to help the Applecross community achieve its aspirations for growth and we are delighted that they are providing such a great service for Applecross. HIE's unique role supports community and economic development and helping local people to provide services and develop infrastructure for themselves is a major part of what we do."
The new equipment was manufactured by Gilbarco Veeder Root, and has been installed in only a handful of UK sites. At all the others it is used to extend the opening hours of filling stations which are manned during the day; only in Applecross does the filling station operate totally without staff, and the software had to be altered to allow for this.
The community has itself raised over £20,000 through donations, loans and fundraising efforts, including an eighteen mile sponsored walk in terrible weather conditions over the Bealach na Ba road from the next nearest filling station in Lochcarron. This money forms a fuel fund, which ensures a healthy cash flow, allowing the filling station to have a consistent supply of fuel.