Community projects

Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre

Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre are a group of three islands within the Orkney Islands.

Rousay is the sixth-largest island in Orkney at 11,937 acres, and has a population of approximately 220. It has been nicknamed 'The Egypt of the North' due to its richness in archaeological sites.

Rousay is a self-sufficient island with a range of amenities and services, such as a grocery shop, primary school and doctor's surgery, as well as restaurants, builders, hairdressers and a fuel station. Rousay also has a fire station, the services of which are shared with Egilsay and Wyre, as is the ambulance.

There are also many social groups and activities on the island, and due to its close proximity to the mainland of Orkney, Rousay residents are also able to make use of the many services elsewhere in Orkney - shops, dentists, vets, butchers, supermarkets, a cinema, a leisure centre, sports facilities and swimming pools.

Egilsay is situated to the east of Rousay. It is a 20-minute ferry journey from Rousay or Wyre. The island has a small population of approximately 18.  The island has a post office, as well as a community hall where events are held, such as Summer Dances, which have attracted folk from across the isles. School children on the island travel daily to the primary school on Rousay, and secondary school on the mainland of Orkney.

The smallest of the three islands is Wyre, which lies to the south-east of Rousay from where it can be reached by a five-minute ferry journey. Although currently having just six residents, Wyre has a post office, a community hall, and regular sailings to and from the islands, seven days a week during the summer months.

Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Development Trust

Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Development Trust (REWDT) is a Company Limited by Guarantee and a Scottish Charity established in March 2007. One of the drivers for the formation of the Trust was the identification of the island grouping as “becoming threatened” in the 2006 population and migration study.

HIE’s Strengthening Communities team has provided support to the community since the outset, and from late 2006, with support from HIE and HICEC (now Community Energy Scotland), the community held a series of public meetings to set up a Development Trust to take forward a range of projects.

The prospect of constructing a community-owned wind turbine was a very popular idea, and this community mandate triggered a series of feasibility studies, assessments and surveys. The appointment of a HIE-funded Turbine Development Officer helped to ensure the delivery of the project, and as part of a consortium of Orkney communities who were developing similar projects, called Community Power Orkney, the Trust was able to share as well as draw from the technical knowledge, skills and experience of other development trusts engaged in similar projects.

In 2010, REWDT was awarded £435,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, and a 900kW wind turbine was constructed on Rousay, producing its first income for the community in early 2012.

The Trust has a wholly owned subsidiary company to operate the wind turbine - Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Islands Renewable Energy Development Ltd. (REWIRED Ltd.). Profits are gifted back to REWDT to assist it to achieve its charitable aims and objectives.

Heat Smart Orkney

Since its commissioning, the community-owned wind turbine has been subjected to higher levels of curtailment than originally anticipated. There is now no additional grid capacity on most of the archipelago, so REWDT and REWIRED Ltd have begun to explore a solution which might benefit the community of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre, as well as other communities in Orkney, by allowing the turbines to generate, instead of being switched off.

In 2016 the Trust successfully applied to the Local Energy Challenge Fund, and received a grant of £1.28 million, to roll out an innovative new pilot scheme called Heat Smart Orkney (HSO).

The project diverts otherwise curtailed electricity from the turbines into secondary heating systems, installed in people's homes. Alongside this, REWDT has set up a second wholly owned subsidiary, HSO Ltd, a community-led and owned local energy rebate company, to manage the community engagement element of the project.
This project has found a way to link wasted energy resource to the stark levels of fuel poverty across the islands, which, if successful, will offer a replicable and commercial model to be rolled out across any area with an actively managed electricity grid.

HIE Account Management

REWDT has been account managed by HIE’s Orkney area team since 2010 to assist the delivery of a plan for growth. Additional support from staff from within HIE’s Strengthening Communities Directorate, Community Assets Team and Community Broadband Scotland is also available to REWDT.

REWDT received support on an ongoing basis as the anchor organisation for the three island communities, under HIE’s Community Account Management (CAM) programme. This programme initially allowed the Trust to employ a part-time Community Development Officer and later to engage a part-time Administration and Finance Support Officer.

In addition to CAM support, REWDT has been provided with direct financial support and, along with other island Trusts, also has access to a range of HIE-funded advisory support services.

Developments / Achievements

Following close consultation with the community about how the income from the turbine should be used, the Trust now supports a range of projects and services, which include:

  • providing additional support services for the elderly

  • funding Wi-Fi centres

  • the building of a new play park at Brinian

  • facilitating the provision of free certificated short courses for all residents

  • developing the annual ‘Rousay Lap’ half marathon

  • subsidising travel costs to enable residents to access activities on the Orkney mainland

  • supporting the start-up of the Rousay Crafthub

  • supporting a number of wellbeing and sports activities

  • satellite broadband connections for households without a BT line

  • providing an annual summer engagement programme of events

The Trust also funded a researcher to approach every member of the community to establish which projects to develop. The Development Plan was updated in 2014 to reflect the results of this research.

Current priorities include the provision of education bursaries, a heritage centre, the establishment of a car club using an electric vehicle, and tackling fuel poverty via multiple and innovative solutions. In supporting the community’s elderly residents - with a shifting demographic towards an older population - these projects are recognised as the core to preserve in the event of a reduce turbine income.

The delivery of HSO and a follow on, European-funded project called SMILE are currently being developed, utilising Horizon 2020 funding.  REWDT is investigating the future housing needs of the three islands, as well as the adequacy of current community spaces, and has identified a need for a better broadband solution. They will shortly conduct an all resident community survey, which will help shape their development planning.  There is the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme heritage work which the Trust is very much involved with. 

  • "The Development Trust is celebrating its first 10 years in 2017 and we have taken stock of our achievements over this 10 year period. From a small seed corn fund in 2007, employing a part time administrator, we are now a corporation of three related companies, the parent of which is a charity, employing seven staff across nine posts.  We have brought a wide variety of benefits into our community over the last 10 years and are now putting together our next Community Survey to inform our next 5-year plan.  We are looking forward to our next 10 years…..and the 10 years after that!"

    REWDT Company Secretary, Helen Castle

Island collaboration

Working together, four Development Trusts - REWDT, Stronsay Development Trust, Shapinsay Development Trust and Sanday Development Trust – were successful in applying to the Rural Island Housing Fund in 2017 to enable them to undertake comprehensive housing needs assessments in each of the four areas.  It is anticipated that this work will be completed by the end of October 2017.

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