Established in 2007, the West Harris Trust is a community charity responsible for managing 7225 hectares of land on the West side of the Isle of Harris.
Like many Island and rural communities, West Harris has faced population challenges. When the Trust was first established, the population of West Harris was identified as unsustainable, with 35% of the 123 residents over the age of 65 and not enough residents in the 16-44 category. In addition, 35% of the region’s housing stock was self-catering cottages or holiday homes.
To readdress the balance, the West Harris Trust wanted to attract young families into the area through greater economic opportunities and wider social provision, with a focus on creating employment and housing prospects.
In 2010, the community purchased land from the Scottish Government and have worked to develop a sustainable income, to provide a platform for development of and investment in the local community.
Since the purchase of land, the Trust has:
- Developed and built new space for businesses, creating opportunities for small, local businesses to flourish.
- Sold plots to the Hebridean Housing Partnership, enabling the construction of ten new housing units, six of which are rented social housing, and four for sale as part of the new Supply Shared Equity Scheme.
- Developed Talla na Mara, an arts and entertainment centre with a restaurant and business premises, supporting 20 jobs.
- Created 5 jobs within the Trust itself – a mixture of full and part time positions, in areas such as; finance, marketing, admin, facilities management.
- Developed a 100kw of hydro power and installed 3 wind turbines which provide free power to community facilities.
- Reinvested income generated from renting of facilities back into the community for local projects.
The work of the Trust is having a notable impact. Since 2010, there has been a 20% increase in population, marking the first real progress for a very long time. As a major property owner in West Harris, the Trust provides opportunities for a range of local contract suppliers, reinvesting in the local economy and keeping money circulating within the community.
To find out more about the West Harris Trust you can visit their website.
For the latest updates, you can also visit their Facebook page.