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Man who sold his ‘shed’ for £42,000 says it’s a bittersweet sale

Steve Husband has sold this shed and its land in Achiltibuie for £42,000, after buying it for just £407 in 1987. Image: Steve Husband.
Steve Husband has sold this shed and its land in Achiltibuie for £42,000, after buying it for just £407 in 1987. Image: Steve Husband.

A man who sold his woodturning shed located near the NC500 tourist route for £42,000 says he’s been left with mixed emotions about the sale.

Steve Husband got more than he bargained for when he put the former telephone exchange and its living room-sized plot at Achiltibuie near Ullapool to an online auction.

Bargain at £2,400 a square metre?

Steve’s shed has flown off the market. Image: Steve Husband

The 17 square metre outbuilding sitting on a 70 square metre plot, which takes in some of the best views in the whole of the Highlands, sold for almost double its asking price.

The 62-year-old renewables sector worker admits he’s relieved about the sale because he needed the money.

But he also knows skyrocketing land prices in the sought-after area means locals have next to no hope of ever owning a home, so population loss is a big problem.

Indeed, he was approached by someone looking to build a chalet so they could take a job in the area.

But putting it to bids, as he did, saw it snapped up in six hours by someone with presumably far bigger pockets.

‘It was time to sell the cash cow’

Road with a view: The single track that leads to Steve’s £42,000 woodturning shed. Image: Steve Husband.

Steve knew the shed he bought for £407 in 1987 was a “cash cow” due to its heavenly setting.

It came through in our interview he might have played his cards differently had he not needed the money from the sale.

Probably an uneasy decision for the Highland stalwart who has for the past 40 years putting his heart and soul into the community.

When Steve bought his shed for a few hundred pounds…

The 1980s Steve who splashed £407 on the ex-telephone exchange to use it as a woodturning shed. Image: Steve Husband.

Time served on the village hall committee, Steve was also a founding director of the Coigach Community Development Company, and put a fair bit of backbone into securing Coigach’s wind turbine, which brings £120k or round about per year.

He’s also on the Grazings committee, houses a hydro-electric scheme on his land, free-lets his sturdy German-built greenhouse for community food growing, has planted 18 hectares of trees, and is looking around for a 25ft monolithic stone to commemorate the brave Coigach women, who many times resisted crofter eviction.

‘Location, location, location…’

Steve’s woodturning shed and plot offers mountain and loch views. Image: Steve Husband.

Steve’s not denying the £42,000 sale of the woodturning shed will come in handy, right now especially, but knows it’s not an ideal situation.

He added: “On one hand, I’m really pleased, but on the other hand, 42 grand for a wooden shed, well…that’s quite a lot of money.”

Asked what he thinks it’s worth, he replied: “I would say 15 grand, but it’s all about location, location, location.”

Access to land in Coigach and wider area is a big problem

This map shows where Steve’s shed is located. Image: DC Thomson.

Land is hugely sought after in the north-west Highlands, and crofts are selling for more than they would elsewhere.

The rise of the North Coast 500 tourist driving route has swelled interest in the area, but Achiltibuie is at least 15 miles down a single track dead end from the NC500 traffic.

It’s lack of access to land for building houses that’s largely driving the issue, say locals.

Concerns for NHS

Steve hopes a concerted effort will open land for affordable housing which would allow locals to stay or those on lower to middle incomes to move in and fill vacancies in the area. Image: Steve Husband.

Steve said: “I know in Sutherland the NHS has jobs they cannot fill because there’s no accommodation.

“That means people are having to turn down jobs because they can’t afford to live here. It’s really a dire situation.”

He added: “In one of the outer-lying villages, there was a house lived in by two doctors who were active in the community.

“They decided to move south to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren and they wanted £250,000 for the property, but the first offer on the table was £400,000.

“They had wanted it to go to a local, but with that sort of price increase they probably thought does it matter really who buys it?”

‘Price of land? It’s an absolute joke’

Ewen McLachlan says at £2,400 per square metre Steve’s woodturning shed is probably one of the most expensive buildings in the Highlands. Image: Donna MacAllister/DC Thomson.

Assynt Development Trust development worker Ewen McLachlan says per square metre, Steve’s woodturning shed has probably ended up costing more than your average house.

He says: “£42,000 is an incredible price for something amounting to a falling down shed, that most young folk in the Highlands couldn’t afford to purchase.

“I think drawing attention to the sale is important, it’s not to slam Steve, who’s a crofter and a really decent guy, but more to point out the lunacy of a 17 square metre shed sitting on 70 square metres of land, with a pretty view but no water, no parking, selling for £42,000.

“You just wonder what the buyer of Steve’s shed might be planning. Can they put a small lodge on it?

“Whatever happens, it’s probably not going to be a permanent home.”

‘Vicious circle’

The housing list is not seen as a possible option says Ewen. Image: Donna MacAllister/DC Thomson.

People in the Coigach, Assynt and wider area no longer see any point in putting their names to the Highland Council’s housing list, adds Ewen.

“People in Assynt living here 30 years are in a caravan, and three generations of one family are under one roof.

“People are doing their best, but 2014 was the last time a young local couple got on the housing ladder in Assynt. That just shows you the scale of the problem.

“You raise your kids, you get them educated, you hope they come back so you can watch the grandkids grow, but then your met head-on with this enormous barrier because all the properties have been purchased by banks financing a dozen country cottage buy-ups.

“It’s just a vicious circle.”

Local and central government take stock

Ardvreck Castle, Assynt. Image: Donna MacAllister/DC Thomson.

But there are glints of good news and signs of a fightback.

The Coigach Community Development Company wants to build eight houses and plans more with Assynt Development Trust.

Furthermore, the area won ‘re-population zone’ status which means Scottish Government, councils, and development agencies must “focus deep and sustained effort” towards tackling the issue.

Who knows who bought Steve’s woodturning shed for £42,000?

It’s not yet known who bought Steve’s shed. Image: Steve Husband.

It is not known who bought Steve’s shed and plot that looks out to the Summer Isles.

HM Coastguard has been ruled out as has hedge fund magnate Ian Wace, who purchased the largest of the Summer Isles, off the west coast, for £1.7 million in 2017.

Steve says the mystery remains to be unravelled but hopes whatever happens with the small plot, it works for the community.

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