Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are to visit Barra next week for two consultation events that will help inform a feasibility study into the creation of a combined school and hospital facility in Castlebay.
The proposal caused confusion and anger earlier this year, when it was first publicised, as both the comhairle and NHS Western Isles had already progressed a plan for a new hospital to replace St Brendan’s. That original model, several years in the making, is still active, although costings have spiralled and a Full Business Case has yet to be submitted to the Scottish Government. Around £7 million has been earmarked by the comhairle for the new hospital.
This week, Edinburgh confirmed that funds had been allocated for a “combined campus” in Castlebay for all primary and secondary pupils. This will mean the closure of the island’s only other school, Eoligarry primary, some 10 miles away. Although Barra is now part of the Scottish Government’s £1 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme, no share of that headline figure has yet been allocated for the new school.
A spokesman for the comhairle said that, together with NHS Western Isles, they are working with procurement agency hubNorth Scotland Ltd to explore the feasibility of “integrating health, social care, learning and community services and facilities on Barra and Vatersay and the provision of a single combined campus in Castlebay.”
He added: “Engagement with local stakeholders and other interested parties continues to be a key part of the feasibility study and a further series of events in Castlebay have been scheduled for the week commencing 16th September. The project team will provide updates on the progress of the study and seek specific views on the options as they are being developed by hubNorth Scotland Ltd and the design team on behalf of the comhairle and NHS Western Isles.
“All the views expressed and observations made during these engagement events will be used to inform the outcomes of the feasibility study, which is scheduled for completion in October 2019.”
A meeting of the Feasibility Study Advisory Group will be held in Castlebay hall on Tuesday 17th September at 3pm. As well as representatives of the comhairle and NHS Western Isles, members of the community councils, parent councils. Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay, Barra Sports Forum, Comunn Eachdraidh Bharraigh agus Bhatarsaigh and Coimhearsneachd Bharraigh agus Bhatarsaigh Ltd have been invited.
On Wednesday 18th September a drop-in session for the public will be held in the hall between 3.30pm and 7.30pm.