Typical, no blog for ages then two turn up together !
I'd just like to thank our local Councillors for their support.
I'm delighted to say that we have been awarded £2.5k towards the Youth Work project and a further £2k towards the continued research into the Harbour Project.
So a huge thank you to Linda Munro, George Farlow and of course our local man Hugh Morrison for recognising the need, and supporting this work with two very generous contributions from the Ward Discretionary Budget. Thank you guys !
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................................
Well it's hard to believe that it's July already. Time is shooting past. It's been a busy summer so far and the Eriboll Harbour project has been taking up a great deal of my time along with Bard Terrace.
Bard Terrace is very nearly completed bar a few minor bits and pieces, external paint and a garden tidy. Albyn Housing have agreed to act as the letting agents and hope to have it advertised soon. I have to say it's looking really good inside and all the tradesmen involved have made a smashing job of it. Well done guys. The house received a good energy rating and has since benefitted from new double glazed units all round, some additional loft insulation and photo voltaic roof panels (free energy for the eventual tenant ! ) so it should be a really cheap place to run. It's also got electric heating as well as an open fire with back boiler and radiators. Look out for the adverts..........
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.
Meetings, meetings, meetings........there certainly has been a lot of meetings since my last blog. Crown Estates, Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, HIE, SKS Scotland x's many and yesterday I met Steve Barron, the Chief Exec of Highland Council along with Councillors Hugh Morrison and George Farlow. It's really nice to say that this collection of meetings have all been positive, inspiring and productive. Think I've earned my salary this month !
As you may have read elsewhere (like the Northern Times or on this website) SSE have awarded the sum of £5k towards the harbour project. This is being combined with almost £20k of funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to undertake the full market appraisal and business case for the harbour. Essentially, this research will prove the viability and sustainability of the harbour project.
Bard Terrace is almost ready too.
So lets look at some positives. I know some people are sceptical about LDO's or 'yoghurt weavers' as I've heard it said. Kevin and I have been in position as a job share for 3 years. So far we have attracted funding too the area of £168,000+ and as I write there are another £38,000 worth of application pending decision. Thats a chunk of cash. But the real beauty is that the main projects haven't even started. The Health Hub, Harbour, Housing and Cape Wrath could see these numbers multiplying quite quickly. With these big projects will come job opportunities and increased spending within the community.
The ward discretionary fund has backed the Cape Wrath Trail with a promise of a £1,000 award. This in turn will guarantee the other wards along the route also contribute £1k. All of which will be doubled by HIE. The CWT should have around £8k to spend on destination marketing website for the Cape Wrath Trail. That’s gotta be good for the area.
Other good news is that
And finally HIE have said I should apply directly to them for assistance with the market research for the harbour project. I have submitted a £5k application this week to SSE fund and will be following this up with a new submission to HIE. The approximate cost of the market research will be around £20k but will prove once and for all that the Port Chamuill project is worth backing and is probably the single most important piece of work we can undertake to give the harbour a realistic chance of being built !!!!
Lets all just be positive !
Well Happy New Year everyone !
I hope you have enjoyed the festivities and are back feeling rejuvenated and ready to crack on with 2014, I know I am. My New Year resolutions remain currently intact and the Dryathlon for Cancer Research is going well. Feel free to make a donation to the cause at this website www.justgiving.com/Neil-Fuller-dryathlete . For those of you who are unaware, the Dryathlon is just a sponsored giving up of alcohol for the month of January. All for a good cause!!! Just as well, as a clear head is needed withs so much going on this month.
The Eriboll Harbour project: applications are being written to get funding to a ascertain exactly what market there is for such a facility so that we can prove once and for all that there is a business case for a harbour at Eriboll. Ultimately we need to prove that this is a worthwhile project for investors to pursue and not just a flight of fancy. It is going to take a while to get the funding in place, but will provide the facts and figures we need to advance the project.
Cape Wrath Community Buy Out: we are working on getting figures for the business plan (as much information as possible needs to be fed into the business plan to help us make informed decisions. For example…..if the community do purchase the land around the lighthouse, what will the insurance and public liability costs be?). Everything needs to be researched, data gathered so that we can give the community of Durness an informed appraisal of the options available regarding any potential purchase of the land at Cape Wrath.
Bard Terrace: There is some good news, we now have the funding for the renovations. Hopefully the work will start soon. The anticipated completion date is the end of March 2014.
Paper Work: paper work, paper work and yet more paper work. I doubt progress will ever see the end of paperwork……………..Happy New Year folks !
Well this is a full week of meetings. I often hear of people complaining about meetings, intact I'm probably quite guilty of this too. But this week the meetings will hopefully be incredibly productive and see us take a step forward on all the projects. So tonight will see a meeting of the Durness Community Council where we will be discussing the proposed community purchase of Cape Wrath. Tuesday sees another meeting about Cape Wrath with DDG and a few interested parties. On the back of these I'm hoping we can take a few practical steps forward with 'Cape Wrath'.
Later in the week I'll be attending the Cape Wrath Trail Board of Directors meeting where hopefully some of the North West and Central Sutherlands councillors will be in attendance and help with the potential funding of the project. If our ward councillors back the project with just £1,000 from the ward budget. The Cape Wrath Trail can lever another £7k from other funders to help take the first strides on this giant of a trial.
On Friday I'll be meeting with HIE to look at the Eriboll Harbour project. There is an enormous amount of work to do, to prove that this is a variable and sustainable project. This undoubtably means a feasibility study (along with a few other substantial studies), but without this and without proof of the projects viability we will not get the backing from funders. So, there will have to be a number of obstacles to overcome, but in doing so we will be able to prove that the project is worth pursuing and it will make the plans that much more robust as a consequence.
In the meantime……….I've got to prepare for a meeting :-)
Well I obviously haven't got the hang of this blogging thing yet, I understand they are supposed to be updated regularly, apparently annually isn't regular enough !
So here's a brief update about whats going on…………...
There is an awful lot going on just now and it's all quite exciting and potentially really good for the area. HIE provided us with some specialist business support. This is to aid plan out the steps for the Eriboll Harbour. The results of which should be back next week. A fund being run by Scottish and Southern Electric has just opened that fits the Harbour project like a glove. So with potential funding from that and HIE, who knows we may have the funds in place to undertake all the survey work, planning and design work by April next year ! Not that I'm counting any chickens just yet, but the potential is certainly there.
We are working on a draft business plan for Cape Wrath and the potential community right to buy. The redevelopment of Bard Terrace is still very much on the horizon and another couple of funding applications have been fired off today. With a little luck and a favourable wind Bard Terrace could be ready for tenants by the start of the new financial year. This would provide a modest income to DDG that would enable some other aspects of the Development Plan. If you haven't seen the development plan have a look around this website, it's here lurking somewhere !
That's enough from me just now. If you are interested in any of the projects that DDG have on the board at the moment and are wanting further information or would like to add a comment or point of view etc then feel free to get in touch with me, Kevin or any of the directors.
Neil's email is firstname.lastname@example.org
This job seems to take over your life at times. It's only a part time position but before you know it you're more than doubled your hours. This week saw an awful lot of meetings !
First was an informal meeting over coffee with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Then another with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and all the other neighbouring Local Development Officers to discuss the way forward after the current 'project' comes to an end.
Then there was also a visit from the Geopark revalidation team as the communities fight for the right to retain the Geopark status. What a wonderful day for them to visit Durness, blue skies and a warm breeze, it was just about perfect. An awful lot of work has gone into the Geopark from the Community Councils of Durness, Kinlochbervie, Scourie, Coigach and Assynt. Hopefully their work will retain our place in the European Geopark Network.
In amongst this there was an awful lot of paperwork to do with a report to write on the internship amongst a raft of other stuff (I wont bore you with the detail).
There was a few bike hires to deal with too. The Bike Hub desperately needs volunteers to help man the place through the peak season, if anyone is keen to help, please get in touch.
Now as the temperature sores I'm heading for Dingwall with a bus load from Durness to watch Ross County v Manchester United XI !!! As an avid United fan it's great to be able to go to Dingwall to see them play rather than the more substantial journey to Old Trafford. It wont be the first team as they are still in Australia on their preseason tour, in wont be the reserves, as they have a full preseason fixture list too, I think it'll mainly be the under 21 side managed by Nicky Butt. But it will be an entertaining afternoon of football and it's bound to be good craich on the bus too. prediction 1-2 to United's young guns !
Cape Wrath Trail
Last week saw another board meeting of the Cape Wrath Trail.
The Cape Wrath Trail is a new company, limited by guarantee and aiming for charitable status.It has been set up through the collaborative work of the Sutherland Partnership, Wester Ross Alliance and the Lochaber Partnership to present a clear and definable route for the Cape Wrath Trail.
There is an interim Board of Directors made up from the 3 areas with 2 from Sutherland (I'm one of those and Graham Wild from KLB is the other), 3 from Wester Ross (which is the largest area the CWT passes through) and 2 from Lochaber.
A lot of work has been done, but there is an awful lot more work to do, we are at the very start of what could prove to be a very worthwhile project.
Have a look at the interim website at www.capewrathtrail.org this features the main details of the initial spinal route. Ultimately we will be undertaking a community consultation process and that will help inform us of the best possible spinal route and all the various spurs/ribs and alternatives that could be listed. The whole idea is to promote and improve the concept of the Cape Wrath Trail into something that will one day complement the West Highland Way and help promote the areas it passes through and help increase tourism along the length of it's route.
Farewell to Niamh O'Driscoll
Back in November I made successful application to 'Adopt an Intern' and we received a funded intern post for 6 months. Out of some 20+ candidates we chose Niamh (pronounced Neev). What a breath of fresh air it was to have some young blood around the place. Niamh has been an absolute star to work with and has even taught us how to write blogs and edit websites. She started work with us back in January and finished here this week, six months done and dusted in the blink of an eye.
With a heavy heart I'd just like to say what a pleasure it was to work with her and wish her all the very best for her new position in the Adventure Capital that is Fort William. Hopefully we'll get to meet up this winter for some skiing or boarding (and avoid the A&E). Best wishes Niamh !
Neil is a director, formally a Local Development Officer for the Durness Development Group.