Community land owner The North Harris Trust announced today that the key funders are now in place and construction can soon begin on the first new business space on Harris in over a decade.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has revealed it is to support the ambitious project with a grant of £154,000 to construct the new zero carbon business units in the east Tarbert area.
Following years of population decline, the corner is being turned in North Harris and the number of working age people has now stabilised.
The focus is now to ensure that there are jobs for people leaving school and who wish to remain in the local community.
There are already local businesses showing an interest in the units and it is hoped that the community can attract growing businesses to the area which would create new employment.
The trust was recently awarded £502,212 from the Big Lottery, and they are also hoping to be supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
Calum Mackay, Chair of the North Harris Trust, said: “Our 2012 community survey confirmed that the lack of jobs is the biggest issue facing our small community. This project will create first rate facilities that will attract new and growing businesses from near and far.
“By encouraging growth in enterprise, the Trust aims to provide employment and training opportunities to young people who would currently leave the area to find work while encouraging new families and employers to move into the community.
“There is a renewed sense of optimism and confidence in the area, and support from agencies like HIE has been fantastic. They see that we are capable of delivering projects and want to work with us.”
Jane MacIntosh, HIE’s Head of Strengthening Communities, said: “HIE is delighted to be supporting this ambitious project. Job creation is an essential part on reversing population decline and providing opportunities for our young families. This is a development which fits perfectly with the Trust’s environmental and economic goals – it would cut energy costs, and support the entrepreneurial efforts of others.”
Until 2003 the 55,000 acres of the North Harris Estate, home to 700 people, was in private ownership. When the estate came up for sale in 2002, a group of islanders saw this as great opportunity. With help from HIE's Community Land Unit and others, the new North Harris Trust succeeded in buying the land together with some buildings.
In 2006 they also bought a second, smaller estate, bringing a total of 63,000 acres under their stewardship. This is a wild and rugged area, and the Trust aims to safeguard what is a unique landscape and promote developments that can bring economic and social benefits to the community.
Last week, a grant from SLF of £60,330 to North Harris Trust was announced which means that the residents of Scalpay can now take their plans forward to acquire the 702 hectare Scalpay Estate, which includes most of the island of and seven outlying uninhabited islands.