An ambitious new project will be launched in Lochalsh shortly aimed at encouraging people to buy locally and travel sustainably.
Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust has secured funding to buy an electric minibus which will play a central part in the new project – Lochalsh Loves Local.
The project will promote sustainable travel by foot, cycle and minibus and urge shoppers to buy locally in Lochalsh.
The trust has secured £20,000 for the project from Scotland Loves Local, a Scottish Government initiative aimed at invigorating high streets and supporting local businesses who have lost trade during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust has also been able to purchase a new nine-seater electric minibus with additional funding of £40,000.
The need for better local transport links and better cycle and foot links between settlements, as well as the need to support businesses, were all identified as key priorities in the recent Lochalsh community survey which was conducted in 2021.
Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust subsequently devised a project which incorporated all of those priorities.
A large number of residents responded to the community survey which gave the trust firm evidence of local backing to put before potential funders.
The trust is now recruiting for a Lochalsh Loves Local co-ordinator on a three-day a week role for an initial year, working alongside the trust’s community development officer, Susan Walker.
The co-ordinator will work with local businesses to develop promotional campaigns and special events and “Lochalsh Loves Local” days to encourage local purchasing.
The co-ordinator’s role will also involve consulting with the community and local groups to identify the best way to use and schedule the new minibus.
This might include designing some scheduled routes and perhaps a dial-a-taxi or rental model to make sure the community gets the best use out of the new community transport vehicle.
The project will also be looking for some volunteer drivers to help to deliver the new community transport scheme.
In addition, Lochalsh Loves Local will identify and promote existing path and cycle routes between settlements, as well as researching potential new foot and cycle routes. The project hopes to work with partners to produce a plan for a new paths network that links as many settlements as possible in Lochalsh. Extra funding will be needed to develop any new paths identified.
Maggie Byrne, chairwoman of Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust said: “Transport within Lochalsh has been raised as a serious issue that prevents community members from getting to work, accessing childcare, travelling to the shops or medical appointments, attending
social or sporting activities or events, connecting up with the public transport network or being able to travel safely by foot or cycle between settlements.
“The local community also values our local businesses highly and was very grateful for the extra community support they gave during Covid lockdowns. We are delighted to be able to begin to address these crucial community priorities with our new Lochalsh Loves Local project.”
For more information on the Lochalsh Loves Local co-ordinator’s post, please visit the Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust website here.
Article by Jackie MacKenzie, image by Willie Urquhart.