BY MICHAEL RUSSELL
Fewer than half of the properties built in recent years in Luskentyre, west Harris, are lived in by permanent residents.
Research conducted by the West Harris Trust – which last week submitted its response to a Scottish Government consultation on short-term lets – found that 21 out of 38 properties built or in the process of being built are holiday homes or self-catering cottages. Most recently, 1 Luskentyre, which has two bedrooms, was placed on the market for offers over £385,000. Substantially renovated, the house was advertised as a “turnkey second home or holiday let business for the next owners”.
Neil Campbell, chair of the West Harris Trust, told the Free Press that at the time of the community buy out in 2010, second home ownership was a “key concern” of the organisation.
“Indeed, it was one of the factors that motivated the community to act,” he added. “The community recognised the unsustainable nature of the situation at that time, with 40 per cent of the houses in west Harris either holiday homes or self-catering cottages.”
Over the last 10 years that figure has increased, prompting the trust to call for west Harris to become a ‘control area’, where houses used for holiday letting would require planning consent. This is one of the proposals the Scottish Government consulted on.
Mr Campbell added: “We should make it clear that we actively support crofters residing on the estate diversifying into tourism to provide an income to enable them to continue to live, or in some cases return to west Harris.
“The trust has released land in conjunction with the grazing committees for self-build, and in partnership with Hebridean Housing Partnership. Six houses for rent and four houses under shared ownership have been built, resulting in the population increasing by 30 per cent over the 10 years of ownership.”
However, the trust remains concerned that the ever-increasing prices being realised for crofts and houses make it very difficult for young people to remain in the community.
“It is hoped that this legislation can be used to keep existing houses under permanent residence rather than becoming holiday homes,” Mr Campbell added.
After analysing the consultation’s finding, the Scottish Government will introduce the agreed changes in April of next year.