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After decades of campaigning, the island of Kerrera finally has a road linking its north and south

The isle of Kerrera.
The isle of Kerrera.

It was once an island divided.

Not by a lack of community spirit, but by geography.

Now tiny Kerrera, which sits in Oban Bay with a population of 70, is losing its status as an island of two halves.

For finally, after decades of campaigning by its residents, Kerrera is getting a road linking each end of the island.

Martin Shields, project manager, looks on with daughter Nancy at the roadworks beginning on Kerrera.

When complete, it will connect for the first time the population in the north of the island to the centre, where the public ferry is situated.

Due to be completed by March next year, the road is only about a mile long.

But the implications for the people who live there go a very long way.

An island divided no more?

It means they can easily visit their neighbours without a cross-country trek or a quad bike ride in the middle of winter.

But also crucially, the islanders in the north will have guaranteed access to the public ferry for the first time.

The Kerrera slipway at Gallanach.

At present Kerrera is served by a series of tracks.

The CalMac ferry operates on one of Scotland’s shortest routes, with a 0.3 mile crossing to Oban.

Work on the first stage of the road project began this month, the Isle of Kerrera Development Trust (IKDT) has announced.

This will see around one mile of forestry grade track connecting the community in the north to the centre of the island.

Isle of Kerrera Development Trust members Tim Vollum, Martin Shields and Gill Vollum oversee the work.

The £500,000 cost is being funded by The Scottish Government’s Islands Programme.

The job is being carried out by A&L McRae on behalf of IKDT and is expected to take two to three months to complete.

The next stage will see Argyll and Bute Council fund the tar topping for the track, at a cost of around £200,000. This is to happen before March next year.

The struggle

North Kerrera resident David Keys said: “Having been a resident at the north end of Kerrera for 25 years and been involved in the struggle to see the island linked up by road for the whole of this time, the road will be transformational for the families and businesses in not only north Kerrera but for the whole island.

Kerrera resident David Keys.

“We will have, for the first time, guaranteed access to a public ferry with all the
benefits that brings and the ability to meet our fellow islanders without a cross-country trek or quad bike ride in the middle of winter.

“Our thanks to the SG Islands team and Argyll and Bute Council for enabling this to happen and for the many hours of community input over the last 20 odd years to get to this point.”

A true success story, Kerrera is breaking the trend of practically every other island in Scotland by increasing its population by 100%.

Population doubled

At the last census in 2011, only 30 people lived there.

Now the 70 residents are split more or less equally on the two ends of the island.

The enterprising community has been trying for more than 20 years to build a road and residents are pleased that they have been able to work in partnership with both local and national government to deliver the project.

The starting point of the new road on Kerrera which will connect islanders on the north end to the public ferry terminal.

The track is deemed as essential to make the community less fragile, and encourage further sustainable development on the island.

Kerrera resident and link road project manager Martin Shields said: “It was an incredible feeling to see the huge machines mobilising for this monumental project.

“Myself and my fellow board members have worked on this for seven years and some for even longer than that.

“At times it has felt like it would never happen so it’s great to see them making headway along the route.

Positive impact

“The road is going to have such a positive impact for the whole of Kerrera, in particular for the north end residents, who will finally have access to the CalMac lifeline service as well as our new community hub at the old school.

“It will also give the rest of the island access to the excellent marina facilities in the north and allow us to work on a much needed island-wide resilience plan.”

The Scottish Government has allocated funding through its Islands Programme as part of the Infrastructure Investment Programme.

Resilience

Islands secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “This project is really important to the residents of Kerrera and provides critical infrastructure to support the island’s resilience.

“This is a great example of what can be achieved through strong collaboration
between communities, Scottish Government, and local authorities. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished track and hearing about the positive impact this will have on the island.”

Local businessman Alistair McRae added: “As an Argyll contractor it is great to be awarded such an important project for the island and its inhabitants.”

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