Well over 40 people of all ages turned out last Saturday afternoon, to take part in the formal opening up of the site in Sleat on Skye where building of a multi-purpose community hub is about to begin.
Donnie MacKinnon, former chair of the Camuscross and Duisdale Initiative, joked as he cut an entrance in the fence that it feels strange for a crofter to cut through a fence, but this is one exception worth making.
Then a group of pre-school children took up the spade to turn the first sod to cheers from all around.
Inverness-based contractors, Compass Building and Construction Services, appointed after competitive tendering, will be responsible for the whole contract. They expected to be on site from Monday (11th January), with the intention of opening the building in time for Easter 2017 when locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy facilities which include a cafe, shop and hall. It also means the local post office, which would close under current regulations on the retirement of the postmistress, will be retained as part of the hub.
The highly attractive-design, chosen through community consultation, is by award-winning WT Architecture, and will sit beside the main A851 Sleat road with stunning views over Camuscross and the Sound of Sleat to Knoydart from a site made available by Camuscross grazings shareholders.
In total, the project will cost around £1.9 million.
Mark Wringe, as current chair of CDI – the community group which developed the project – thanked the many individuals and bodies, including past and present directors of CDI, who had worked hard over several years to make the project a reality.
He said: “There were some very anxious moments over the autumn, when an issue over the resumption of the site from crofting tenure threatened to push us beyond a funding deadline, but an almost unprecedented 100 per cent agreement to resumption was achieved. Construction costs also rose, with the prospect of us having to lose key aspects of the project. However, our major funders, the National Lottery and the Coastal Communities Fund, were enormously supportive, and between them promised us an additional £200,000 to complete the hub as planned.”
He added: “Camuscross and Duisdale have just had their biggest Christmas present ever, and we can look forward to a fantastic year in 2016 as we watch the building go up. It’s a huge achievement for a community of around 180 people, but if we can do it so can anywhere else in the Highlands and Islands.”
The bulk of the £1.9 million total cost is being met by awards from the National Lottery and the Coastal Communities Fund, with significant support also from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Robertson Trust and Highland Council.
CDI is currently advertising for a self-employed project development officer.