Comhairle must replace Barra housing site

The derelict site that the Barra Sports Forum want for an all-weather pitch

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar must replace land they gave away for housing in Castlebay, Barra, because it was meant to be kept in perpetuity for recreational use.

Last month, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart cut the turf on the Corran Ciosmul development at Horve. However, the six houses are to be built on what was a King George V Playing Field, which was set aside and protected in 1962.

For anyone to build on this land they must notify and obtain the consent of Fields in Trust, a charity that acts to protect all KGV land. Even though the comhairle took over the management of the land in 1984 they must still obtain the trust’s consent.

Barra FC’s current training facility!

The Barra Sports Forum have been pressing the comhairle for years to transfer a piece of derelict land near the Co-op, which is adjacent to the KGV area, for use as an all-weather pitch.

A spokesman said: “The sports forum urge the comhairle to fulfil their legal and moral obligations to the people of Barra and Vatersay to protect the sports and recreation land in Horve by righting this wrong: firstly, by filing for a change of land use to Fields in Trust from ‘sports and recreation’ to ‘housing’ and; secondly, by transferring an equivalent area of land to the KGV playing field in compensation for land lost to housing. Only by doing this will the comhairle avoid the danger of stalling the desperately needed new housing that helps secure the future of our islands.”

Richard McKeever of Fields in Trust the charity recognised that that “sometimes it may be necessary” to change the use of recreational land.

He added: “As part of our protection, we have a responsibility to ensure the local owners and managers of these spaces seek our consent to undertake any changes regarding land ownership, land transactions, erection of buildings and structures – and that proposed changes fit with the purpose of the protected space and benefit its recreational use. We are currently in constructive dialogue with the council and await their proposals for replacement recreational land of an equal or better standard which will be protected for the local community to enjoy in perpetuity.”

The housing development at Corran Ciosmul is being undertaken by the Hebridean Housing Partnership, which has owned the land since 2006.

Katrina Rowlands, HHP development manager, said: “Due to the nature of how the titles were transferred to HHP, the burden in relation to the Fields in Trust was not recorded therefore the responsibility to meet the Fields in Trust conditions remains with the comhairle. We are aware that the comhairle’s legal team are in discussions with Fields In Trust to resolve the matter.”

A spokesman for the comhairle said discussion with Fields in Trust were continuing.