At the time of the trust being formed from the initial steering group in 2007, it was identified that the population in West Harris was unsustainable. 35% of the 123 residents were over 65, and there were far too few people in the economically important 16-44 age group. To readdress this balance the trust set out to develop a community with greater economic opportunities and wider social provision, in order to attract young families into the area. Creating employment and housing opportunities lie at the very heart of the trusts objectives, and there have been two primary means of improving the economic viability of the area outlined below.
In 2010 when the community purchased the land from the Scottish government the annual guaranteed income from the estate was minimal, and mainly from croft rent. In the 8 years following the purchase we have worked hard to develop a sustainable income for the trust, to provide a platform for community development and investment including but not limited to the installation of three wind turbines and a 100kw hydro station.
As the trust has developed and the number of assets managed has increased so to has the need for staff. The trust now employs 5 members of staff in a mix of full and part time positions, in areas such as; finance, marketing, admin, facilities management.
As a major property owner in West Harris, there is a need for local and wider contract suppliers ranging from, plumbing, electrical, gardening, building, window cleaning. We are reinvesting in our islands economy.
Before the community purchased the estate there was limited – no space for small businesses, and creating these opportunities for local businesses to flourish has been a key focus for the trust.
With the purchase of Seilebost School, creation of The Marine Shorebase ‘The Cliff’ and the Community Enterprise Centre ‘Talla na Mara’. We are now a major property owner in West Harris.
The school was purchased by the West Harris Trust, and initially used as office space before relocating to Talla na Mara.
It is currently let out to local businesses and operates as a small motorhome park with four electric hookups.
The Cliff, WHT’s first build was completed in 2014, and is currently leased by two local businessmen.