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Cta Man
Lochaline Pontoons

Morvern Community Development Company

West coast peninsula community delivering multi-million pound local infrastructure projects.

Morvern is a delightful place to live and work, and its sustainability as a remote rural location has been bolstered by MCDC’s strong track record in creating and delivering ambitious local infrastructure projects.
Jane Stuart-Smith, chair, MCDC

Community at the heart of sustainability 

Set up in 1999, Morvern Community Development Company has firmly placed the community at the heart of social and economic development for the area in the new millennium.

Now with three members of staff - including project manager Lilia Dobrokhodova - a skilled volunteer board and the support of the wider community, MCDC has created and delivered a wide range of ambitious infrastructure projects. These include:

  • the transformational harbour project, Cala Loch Àlain, creating 32 visitor berths, 10 swinging moorings, subsequent shore facilities, and access paths;
  • an allotment scheme on the land leased from Ardtornish Estate;
  • a community amenity woodland project; 

and most recently

  • the UK's largest community-owned hydro-power scheme;
  • a community hub;
  • three one-bedroom homes.

Sustainable development is at the core of the organisation's work making use of community land and assets; advancing education and safeguarding the local environment, culture and heritage; and delivering products and services for the community.

2021 was an exceptional year for us with the completion of three major projects that are already providing tangible benefits to the community.
Lilia Dobrokhodova , local development officer, MCDC
Morvern Hydro

Barr River Hydropower scheme

The Morvern peninsula is now home to the UK's largest 100% community-owned hydropower scheme.

The 1.6Mw scheme is expected to generate approximately 4,269,000 kWh each year – enough to power over 1,000 homes. It was completed in July 2021 on a site deep in the forest, 11 miles from the village of Lochaline.

Initial support for the project was secured through the Scottish Government's Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES).

The final funding package of £6.5 million also included £2.23m from the Energy Investment Fund (EIF), and MCDC also worked with Triodos Bank UK, to secure a new type of finance arrangement that would support the development of its hydropower scheme.

The finance deal has helped to fund the construction of the hydropower scheme by MorVolts Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of MCDC.

Having worked with MCDC for over a decade, we’re delighted to see how much the community has achieved. Who better to spot the best opportunities to grow sustainable, resilient communities than local people? And we’re here to support them.
Ian Philp, account manager, HIE

Delivering community-led multi-million pound projects

MCDC’s work is having a transformational impact on its community, delivering complex infrastructure projects which touch many aspects of local life - services, jobs, green energy provision, local tourism, and more. In a community of just a few hundred people - how has it been possible? Find out more:

What’s the Morvern peninsula like?

A remote west coast mainland peninsula Morvern’s main settlement is the village of Lochaline. The village, which sits on the northern shore at the mouth of Loch Aline, has a range of amenities including primary school, medical centre, shop, post office, church and ferry terminal for the Fishnish ferry to Mull. 

The unspoilt area is popular with nature lovers, and as well as its strategic location for seafarers, it offers mountains, woodlands and moorland. Local employment is largely linked to the land, including forestry and tourism.

Where did the development ideas come from?

MCDC worked with its local community to identify opportunities for the area. Their aim was to ensure there were enough jobs, affordable houses, leisure services and a quality of life for a sustainable community.

With support from HIE and the European LEADER programme, they developed a growth plan, incorporating a range of projects, including highlighting the potential of marine tourism, and a proposed development of pontoons and shore based facilities.

How were they progressed?

HIE provided support for a full-time development officer to take the community’s ambitions forward. Lilia's appointment brought the dedicated resource the community and the Board needed to support the delivery of the community's strategy.

Projects of this scale are complex to deliver, here is some headline advice from Lilia for others involved in development projects.

The pontoons

Be aware of opportunities that relate to your aspirations.

We were able to tap into the EU SailWest marine tourism infrastructure project. This provided £320K in grant funding and was a huge learning curve for MCDC as a company and for the individuals involved.

It was unnerving at times to think such a small community could realise such a large project, and at the time we were a relatively inexperienced development company.

The success of the pontoons empowered us to seek funds for shore facilities, a £210K project supported by HIE and Highland LEADER. And this is how it all really started - then the allotments happened, land acquisition, pontoons expansion and more. 

The hydro project

Take advantage of existing community skills.

MCDC had some hydro building expertise amongst its directors. We saw the opportunity to explore viable hydro schemes that would benefit the community, help make MCDC a more self financing business, and provide the community with ‘greener’ electricity. 

Local Energy Scotland helped us explore the feasibility, and technical aspects of the project, and provided loans to enable the work to be carried out.

Funding - the main challenge was to put the £6.5m funding package in place. It wasn't easy and we had a few false starts as we explored options. We managed to develop an innovative approach building a package through Triodos Bank debt finance and EIF finance.

Community facilities

Focus on your priorities.

Like many rural communities, affordable housing to retain and attract local workers is a priority for us.

The funding package for building homes seemed ages in production but we secured funds from Retirement Housing Foundation, SSE Development Fund, the local Morvern Community Trust, another local Craig Sellar Trust, and a Triodos Bank mortgage allowed us to build three one-bedroom affordable homes in the village. All three houses are occupied and the tenants are very happy there.

MCDC has also built a community hub in the heart of Lochaline on land of the Old Scout hut which was transferred into community ownership by its previous owner. The funding for the hub came from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, HIE, Highland LEADER and the local MCT.

Low carbon transition is a key focus for Scotland's communities. In addition to our hydro scheme, we have a range of projects which have attracted funding support.

We have an electric Nissan LEAF that is used in the community as a hire car, and a new project for e-bikes. The e-bikes, supported by HIE's Community-led Tourism Infrastructure Fund, are to be rented out to locals and visitors to the area to explore the surroundings.​

What financial and other support has the community had?

  • With HIE:
    Funding for development officer, and support from a wider Local Development Officers network across the region;
    Project planning, development and funding advice and support;
    Grant funding for the marina, fuel pumps, e-bikes and the community business hub;
    Specialist advice to support MCDC staff and board develop their growth plan ambitions;
    Scottish Land Fund and HIE Community Assets team advice and support;
    Skills support including MIT Entrepreneurship Programme.

  • LEADER funding
  • Scottish Government's Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES).
  • £2.23m from the Energy Investment Fund (EIF) for the Hydropower scheme
  • Triodos Bank
  • Local Energy Scotland – expertise and development funding for the hydro scheme.
  • COVID support and recovery funding - Supporting Communities Fund and Community-Led Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

How have the projects impacted on the community?

In addition to providing infrastructure, MCDC projects have added directly and indirectly to local employment. They employ two Harbour Masters and local people have always been part of delivering the building projects.

The infrastructure created, and the increased footfall in the village as a result, allows existing businesses to grow and thrive and provides opportunities for new businesses to open. This provides employment for local people throughout the year.

Café LA opened in the new community hub in July 2021. It has become a welcome addition to services and facilities in the village and a real community hub for people to meet.

The hydro scheme should provide the community with sustainable income for years to come.

The community housing provides accommodation for local people, including local key workers.

What's next?

MCDC is now a financially sustainable business with three employees delivering real benefits to the Morvern community. Revenues from its activities will be re-invested into future community projects.

The three main community organisations locally MCDC, MCC and MCT are working together to plan the next stage of community development - all of the projects from the original Community Growth Plan have been realised.

The new community plan will form the basis for community development for the next 10 years. It will look at more housing, new energy initiatives, sustainability and crisis management, business opportunities, net zero community, further community land ownership, services and facilities, and more.

Morvern Hydro 2

Hydroscheme official opening

See the release about the official opening of the hydroscheme, the community hub and the local housing project.

West coast community launches hydropower scheme


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