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Community estate snaps up local landmark to prevent it being turned into holiday home

Kershader resource centre
Kershader resource centre

A community-owned island estate has bought an important local building to save it from potentially being turned into a holiday home.

Pairc Trust in Lewis has completed a deal to bring the Kershader resource centre into community ownership alongside other local facilities.

The trust took over the estate in December 2015 after a 13-year campaign and initially looked into buying the centre the following year.

Priorities then changed and the trust concentrated on developing affordable housing units.

But in 2019 it renewed its interest in the centre – which houses a playgroup, gym and space for other community groups.

It received £38,500 from the Scottish Land Fund for the purchase in September and the deal has now been completed.

The trust’s estate office manager Fiona Stokes said the resource centre is a key asset in a prime location near the community-owned Ravenspoint Centre, which runs a shop, museum, hostel, cafe and fuel pump.

“We didn’t want it to be sold on the open market and be turned into something else, like a holiday home.

“The playgroup has been there ever since the centre was built and we just wanted to keep it for them to carry on.”

Meanwhile, plans to upgrade and refurbish the old Leverhulme Memorial School building in Leverburgh, Harris, have received a £300,000 boost.

The money from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF) will help the community develop the building after it was acquired from Western Isles Council last year.

Leverhulme Community Hub Ltd (LCH) will own and run the project to provide an economic hub in collaboration with the local shop and village hall.

The social enterprise will comprise a café, launderette, gym, post office and space for a council satellite office.

It will also have a charity shop and museum or historical archive, providing a new attraction for the annual 54,000 passengers on the Berneray ferry and the 130,000 visitors to Harris each year.

Donald Crichton, who chairs the council’s sustainable development committee, said: “Initiatives to grow the south Harris economy are welcome, especially during these testing times.”

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell added: “This project will see a former school rescued from demolition, and brought back into use to deliver a broad range of vital facilities and services for the community, celebrating the Gaelic language and local heritage, enhancing the economy and promoting health and wellbeing.”

LCH chairman Angus Macleod said “This brings us considerably closer to putting South Harris back on the map in terms of amenities and community regeneration.”

A crowdfunding campaign has also been launched to redevelop the former Carloway School and a community centre in Lewis.

Carloway Community Association’s plans for the properties include a community shop, a commercial kitchen, new office and meeting space, along with a permanent home for Carloway Historical Society.

Carloway School

Tenders for the project are being sought and the association has raised around £15,000.

It hopes crowdfunding will bring in another £10,000 to add to support already received from the Scottish Government Regeneration Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Landfill Community Fund, the Robertson Trust and £32,000 from Western Isles Council’s Crown Estate Fund.

Association chairman Mairi Steele said: “All the elements of the project have been identified as priorities by the community in a series of consultations and are supported by a comprehensive business plan.”

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