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£353k investment approved for Islay community project

Published: 26/05/2023

A £2.2m project to create a new community building and enhance visitor facilities at Port Ellen on Islay, has secured up to £353,808 investment from HIE.

A £2.2m project to create a new community building and enhance visitor facilities at Port Ellen on Islay, has secured up to £353,808 investment from HIE.

The HIE investment completes the funding package for the project by South Islay Development (SID), which will support  at least three part-time jobs.

At around 25 miles by 15 miles, Islay is one of the larger Inner Hebridean islands. The island sits to the west of the Kintyre Peninsula and is connected to the mainland with ferries to and from Port Ellen in the south and Port Askaig in the northeast. 

Tourism is one of its main industries, along with whisky distilling and farming.

As with a number of rural areas across the Highlands and Islands, Islay faces challenges in retaining its resident population. SID was established in 2011 as a charity company to manage community assets, enhance recreational facilities, and advance community development and population resilience.

The group’s projects so far have included the creation of pontoons and shower facilities at Port Ellen, in partnership with Port Ellen Harbour Association. SID’s acquisition in 2014 of the Port Ellen Filling Station, saved the facility from closure.

The organisation has also co-ordinated a range of community events and activities, including the resilience and recovery activity throughout the pandemic, and is pursuing childcare provision for working parents.

This latest initiative will enhance facilities for the community and visitors and bring a prominent site in to productive use.

The new community building will be built on a site where a previous and well used community building, the Pavilion, once stood before it was condemned and demolished.

The new building will be fully accessible and will include a multi-function space that can be extended into an adjacent community room.

There will be three smaller rooms available to rent for commercial use, and a kitchen / bakery, with café facilities, which will be leased to a third-party operator. The building will also include toilets, a plant room and storage space for local sports clubs.

Eight new motorhome pitches will be created alongside the existing ones, bringing the total number of pitches to 12. The project will include a WC block, with shower and laundry facilities. There will be improved waste disposal, recycling facilities and two EV charging points.

The project design includes low carbon features, such as an air source heat pump and solar panels.

Morag Goodfellow, HIE area manager for Argyll and the Islands, said:

“Community management and development of local assets is vital to the resilience and prosperity of our more remote and fragile areas. This initiative by South Islay Development is a great example.

“It will create new commercial space, enabling local businesses to increase productivity. It will attract more visitors and encourage them to stay longer and spend more, thereby supporting other local businesses. And it will create crucial employment opportunities. The various energy efficiency features of the development will also contribute to the drive towards a net zero region.

“We very much look forward to continuing to work with SID as they implement the plans and to seeing the resulting benefits.”

Chairman of South Islay Development, Patrick McGrann, said:

“Ten years in the making. The SID team has worked valiantly with the support of HIE to finally construct a new community building, improve the playing field’s facilities and expand the motorhome area within the community owned Port Ellen Playing Fields.

“These developments will benefit the local community by providing a much needed community building to be the centre for local events focused on the Playing Fields. The children’s playpark is to be upgraded to enhance an already well used area for the growing number of children on Islay. The motorhome area will offer increased overnight stay facilities to reduce the congested centre of our village in the tourist season, and our local economy will be enhanced by the provision of new employment opportunities.

“We look forward to the completion of this project for our community.”