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West Harris Trust

West Harris was the first community to purchase its crofting estate from the Scottish Government

Growing the community

In 2010 the West Harris Trust, a community company with open membership to all residents, became the first community to purchase its crofting estate from the Scottish Government through the Community Empowerment Act.

On the 7,225 hectare estate there is a population of about 150 people, spread between the crofting townships of Losgaintir, Seilebost, Horgabost, Na Buirgh and Sgarasta Mhor. The area is nearly all under crofting tenure, with 52 individual crofts and four common grazings.

Landownership has opened the door for the community itself to identify its priorities to stimulate population growth and to strengthen the local economy.

There has been a lot of development activity since 2010. Energy generation, housing, business, community facilities, and safeguarding the natural and cultural environment of the area are just a few of the issues that the West Harris Trust has embraced.

Talla na Mara

The Trust's flagship project is Talla na Mara, which means the Centre by the Sea. Overlooking Niseaboist beach and the Sound of Taransay, it's one of the most photographed locations in the Outer Hebrides.

Visit the Talla na Mara website

Building success

Talla na Mara, with its community venue, business facilities and affordable housing is a major step forward for the area.

Partnership funding for the project came from the Scottish Government, The Big Lottery Fund, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, HIE, Coastal Communities Fund, The Robertson Trust, Scottish Hydro Electric Community Trust and an in kind contribution from the West Harris Trust.

The local team’s enthusiasm to continue to build on the opportunity is clear: there are plans to expand the wedding market; currently they’re looking for a new restaurant tenant to develop their food offering; and they’re exploring how they can add to facilities for a busy tourist market.

Photo courtesy @Talla na Mara/John Maher

One of our directors said we had a world class location and we needed a world class venue to go with it. And that's been the aim of the Talla Na Mara project from day one.
Duncan MacPherson, former Commercial Development Manager, West Harris Trust

Income generation

As with all economic development, sustainability and income generation are key for the Trust.

The opportunity from renewable energy was a part of the original business plan for the purchase of the estate. The community has developed two wind turbines (53kw and 5kw) and a third (100kw), serving Talla na Mara and the new homes, under a shared ownership model.

The Trust is also a shareholder of a 100kw hydro scheme at Gleann Dubhlinn.

Providing space for people to live, work and visit is an important part of the community’s goals for growth.

Priorities

The Trust has ongoing projects to support local housing. Working with the Hebridean Housing Partnership, the first ever affordable homes for rent were built in 2016. Four new shared equity homes will soon join the six existing rented houses.

Four additional plots have been released for private self-build, and there are plans for more space to meet the high demand for camper van hook up points.

Business is benefitting too. Other inward investment projects have included the construction of two industrial shed units, which resulted in a marine engineering company locating to Seilebost. Plans are being explored for modernised business unit space as part of the proposed renovation of the former Seilebost school.

Visit the West Harris Trust website >