A Skye community organisation has withdrawn its bid to purchase council-owned land at one of the island’s busiest visitor sites.
Staffin Community Trust lodged one of the first asset transfer requests in the Highlands following the introduction of new community empowerment legislation a year ago, seeking to purchase roadside ground at the Old Man of Storr.
The iconic rock feature has regularly been used in movies such as Prometheus, the BFG and Macbeth, as well as television programmes, commercials, newspapers and magazines.
SCT had intended to build a new car park and public toilets in response to the local community’s road safety and sanitation concerns.
The asset transfer was declined by Highland Council, the site owner, in September 2017, but SCT subsequently lodged a request for the decision to be formally reviewed.
The council separately proposed a partnership project, which could have involved working together on securing the necessary funding for improvements and agreeing a revenue sharing model.
Several meetings between both parties were held, but an agreement could not be reached.
SCT’s board of directors have now unanimously agreed that the short and long-term interests of the development trust will be best served by withdrawing the ATR review and concluding any further discussions on the suggested partnership.
The trust will instead focus on the delivery of other projects, including an affordable business and medical development, Skye Ecomuseum’s new viewing platform and car park, and efforts to deliver marine tourism and commercial infrastructure at Staffin Slipway.
SCT chairman Sandy Ogilvie said: “It is with considerable regret that the Staffin Community Trust directors have come to this decision. A great deal of effort had gone into creating a dynamic and robust development at the Old Man of Storr.
“Our plans and documentation for the SCT project, which we believed to be a project of significant merit, will be made available to Highland Council.
“We wish the council well in the coming months in providing the much-needed development of the site.”
The council had allocated £400,000 for the site in November 2016 and SCT requested that money be invested in the project, so it could work to secure the additional matchfunding required to deliver the £900,000 development.
The council claimed that the transfer of £400,000 “would not be prudent” and “failed to protect the public interest”.
It added the plan to separate the car park area from the rest of the land it owned at the Storr, including a native woodland, would “separate the revenue generating potential of the site from the burden of management and maintenance.”
Skye councillors confident council can still deliver improvements
Skye councillor John Finlayson insisted that the local authority has worked closely with the SCT for several years to address visitor management issues at the site.
Yesterday he said: “It is very disappointing for both parties and the wider public interest that agreement could not be reached on a partnership approach.”
But SCT has pledged £10,000 worth of fully funded interpretation works at the Storr to the local authority.
And the trust has rescinded its expression of interest to the LEADER Programme in the hope it will allow the council to make its own application.
Mr Finlayson added: “The council acknowledges the hard work the trust has put into these discussions and appreciates the support the trust is willing to give to enable the council to take a project for improvements forward.
“Local members are confident that the council can deliver improvements that protect the site in its entirety, to achieve the greatest benefits for both the local communities and visitors to the island.
“The council is committed to moving this project forward and to looking for funding streams that along with council funding, can support the development of the Storr site and importantly, parking and other onsite facilities.”