BY KEITH MACKENZIE firstname.lastname@example.org
Plans for much-needed affordable housing in north Skye received a boost this week after Scottish National Heritage dropped their controversial objection to a new development in Staffin.
A planning application for six new houses on common grazings tenanted by the Stenscholl crofting township has been submitted to Highland Council, and if consent is granted it will be the first development of its kind in the area since the late 1990s.
In their response to the application the environmental watchdog — who have significant clout when it comes to planning decisions — have reiterated their previous concerns about the crofting landscape and the Trotternish Scenic Area. However, the submission by area officer for Skye and Lochalsh Alex Turner adds that “the effects of this particular proposal would be localised and it would not, by itself, affect the overall integrity of the NSA”.
The news that there will be no formal SNH objection will come as great relief to those pursuing the scheme in an area where the number of young people has been falling at an alarming rate in recent years.
There are six houses planned, with ownership being divided between the Staffin Community Trust, Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association.
The development, planned for a site near Staffin Primary School, also includes two business units and a storage facility.
MSPs Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) and David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) have both voiced their support for the new Staffin development.
In January of this year Steve North, SNH operations manager for the Inner Moray Firth, Wester Ross and Skye, said the location was wrong. At the time he told the Free Press: “This landscape is a key economic asset for the island. There are other potential areas for housing which wouldn’t affect the NSA.”
An NSA designation has existed in Staffin for 40 years, although the planning wrangle over the small housing project has sparked fears the classification is working against the local community and restricting development.