It's funny how time passes, it's been well over 12 months since my last blog ! So I suppose a wee appraisal of the last 12 months is in order.
The Community House, 1 Bard Terrace was completed in the autumn of 2014 and has been let since the start of 2015. This brings a modest income for the charity but also brings a family into Durness.
"The Eriboll Harbour project has been under the microscope with SKS Scotland looking at the potential revenue and viability of the project. Their work continues for another couple of weeks but the results are starting to show some positive signs. I'll post the results on the website when we have them in full."
That's what I wrote back in July 2014. It was a time of real optimism, the business case for the harbour was almost ready and was looking rather good. But as the saying goes, you should "never count your chickens until the egg has hatched". The business case evaporated with the shock news that Pelamis Wave Power were going into administration with the cost of some 40 jobs. Pelamis made the Eriboll Harbour project stack up. Without them it would not be viable.
So what's next for the harbour project? Well a major rethink is on the cards. We have the completed market research. There's is a very definite need for access to the sea. We are a coastal community with no safe access to the sea. The amount of economic activity that would be triggered by the installation of slipways and safe moorings is quite sizeable and the potential for job creation (not to mention job retention) is significant. The fish farm say they would expand (although this may be happening anyway) bringing 3 jobs, the mussel lines would become productive leading to between 3 and 6 jobs, tour boats and fishing charters would start up leading to 4 jobs, creel boats returning could be another 2 jobs, you get the idea. The number of yachts passing Loch Eriboll each year could provide another string to the bow. Eriboll is the missing link between the two sailing markets of the West Coast and the Sail North. It's not inconceivable that we could get 500 yachts a year visiting facilities in Eriboll. Then we'd need taxis to get them around the area (average spend per yacht visit is around £150 a night), staff to take payments etc. But all it really takes is 1 major player and the business case could be balanced again.
So what is the alternative to a massively expensive harbour development? Can we reduce the cost of the infrastructure but still create a suitable development to trigger the economic activity. Possibly yes. It's very early days, but DDG are exploring the potential for digging out an inland basin. It sounds bonkers, but it basically means a great deal less excavation and movement of materials than building breakwaters. A breakwater for a harbour may have a footprint of around 40m as it stands in the water (all you would see is the top couple of meters). A breakwater swallows tons and tons of materials for every linear meter and the numbers grow exponentially as you go into deeper water. In contrast, if you dig a hole, you only remove the amount you need to and have vertical pilings to form the sides. It's early days but this is what we'll look at next.
Since March 2015 I have been working full time as the Local Development Officer rather than job-sharing with Kevin. He's now concentrating on his passion of photography, we all wish him well with his new business Cairn House Gallery .
Exploring the prospect for a community owned Brewery, Distillery & Cafe has been high on my agenda. The recent press coverage was a little premature as we are still a very long way away from 'unveiling' anything. We'd much rather finish exploring the business case before going public with any plans. There was a little truth in the articles, but only a little. We are looking at the potential for a community owned business that would brew, distill and serve food. Where this research will lead, we don't know yet. All I can say is that there is the potential for a small business that is owned by the community and retains the profits within the community. The intention is to have the business case completed by April 2016.
Cape Wrath community land buy out is very much to the fore at the moment. The Northern Lighthouse Board do want to sell, and we want to buy. It's just a case of raising the money and moving forward.
I'll try to make my next blog a little sooner................................
Neil is a director, formally a Local Development Officer for the Durness Development Group.