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Discount house scheme helps reunite family in remote Knoydart

The mountains of Knoydart under a cap of snow with Loch Nevis in the foreground.
The mountains of Knoydart under a cap of snow with Loch Nevis in the foreground.

A scheme offering cut-price house plots to sustain rural populations is helping to reunite a family in a remote part of Scotland.

Jacqui Wallace built her home in Inverie on Knoydart eight years ago using the scheme which helps provide affordable housing.

In the coming months, similar assistance will allow her daughter and two sons to develop houses on the peninsula where they grew up.

The discounted plot scheme, run by community landowners the Knoydart Foundation, is aimed at helping local people secure affordable housing and counter high prices for accommodation on the open market and the influence of second homes.

It can offer a quarter acre of land for £5,000, instead of £120,000 on the open market, as well as a right of pre-emption under the Rural Housing Burden.

Ms Wallace acquired one of the initial three discounted plots under the scheme and members of her family will take up three of five new plots.

Stephanie Harris and partner Jamespatrick Langford will be joined by Mark Harris, as well as Tom Harris, his partner Yasmine and their three children. The siblings had moved away from Knoydart due to lack of suitable accommodation and will now add to the peninsula’s 103-strong population.

Knoydart plot

Ms Wallace, who works at Kilchoan Estate, initially set up home in Knoydart in 1992 on land bought from her employer. After divorcing in 2009 she had to sell the family home and find somewhere else to live.

“There were no houses for long term rent and there were no houses for sale.  If there had been any property for sale I would never had been able to afford it with the funds I had available.”

She applied to the discount scheme and in 2013 moved into a new house which her eldest son Mark built through the Knoydart Construction company.

“Jump to 2021 and I’ve been in my house for almost eight years and each of my children are now in the process of buying a plot.”

“It helped me to carry on living here, helped me build my own home and has helped my family all stay somewhere they were brought up and love.

discounted plot in Knoydart

“When my son and family come back they will be boosting the school role.  Having helped three young families all in the 25-35 age group settle here is something that Knoydart Foundation should be proud of.

“If it wasn’t for the Knoydart Foundation discounted plot scheme I may have had to leave after living here for 20 years because there was no affordable housing.”

Craig Dunn, operations manager with the Knoydart Foundation, said: “The discounted plots offer people the chance to build homes at a cost they just would not get on the open market.

“It helps sustain populations in rural areas like this. Our school lost five pupils in the last 18 months, but there will now be three moving here soon.

“The scheme was developed to make housing more affordable to all.”

Knoydart, which had a population of 1,000 in the mid-1800s, is a 55,000 acre peninsula between the sea Lochs Nevis and Hourn (the lochs of Heaven and Hell).

It is not accessible by road and visitors travel to Inverie by boat across Loch Nevis from Mallaig or a long trek overland from Loch Arkaig or Kinlochhourn, Shiel Bridge or Cluanie Inn or from Glenfinnan.

The 17,200 acre Knoydart Estate was taken over by the community in 1999 and is now managed by the Knoydart Foundation, a charity that, with its subsidiaries, provides low-rental housing and green energy for residents of Inverie and accommodation for visitors. With the Knoydart Forest Trust it has also planted more than 500,000 trees on the peninsula.

Last month the foundation was awarded £391,150 to buy a disused cottage and 111 acres of land west of Inverie to develop for the community.

This is the only way we could own our own home on Knoydart

Stephanie Harris and Jamespatrick Langford

Stephanie Harris, 31, grew up in Knoydart and moved away to attend university aged 18.

She said: “I always knew I wanted to return home to live permanently at some point. During my time away I saw my mum go through the process of purchasing a plot from Knoydart Foundation and building her own home. It seemed like the most suitable, if only, opportunity I would have to own my own home on the peninsula.”

She moved back in 2017 and her partner Jamespatrick Langford joined her permanently last year.

“The sale of land for homes policy is, realistically, the only way we would ever be able to own our own home on Knoydart.

“From a financial point of view the plot/house prices here over the last few years have been outwith anything we would ever be able to afford, and the discounted plot price also sets us up well from the outset to be able to build an affordable home.

“If the plot scheme was not available we would either have had to try to find rented accommodation, which is hard to come by, or not be able to live here at all.

“In the long term I think the scheme will help to re-balance primary residences against holiday homes/tourist accommodation, and along with this help to balance the age demographic of our community by giving younger residents an affordable option to own their own home.”

 

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