South Harris could follow the lead of fellow islanders and launch community buy-out

South Harris could follow the lead of fellow islanders and launch community buy-out
West Highland Free Press

A public meeting will be ‘held in the south of Harris next week in a bid to determine local support for a possible community buy-out. A successful outcome could mean the whole of Harris coming under community ownership. 


The meeting will be held in Leverburgh Village Hall on Thursday 10th May during which a representative from the Community Land Vnit at Highlands and Islands Enterprise will be in attendance to explain the process. 


The South Harris Estate covers a large area from just outside Tarbert down the east coast and across to Northton. It also includes the island of Berneray, which is more closely associated with North Vist. The estate is owned by the Hitchcock family from the south of England who bought it in 1925 following the death of soap baron Lord Leverhulme. 


South Harris Community Council secretary Alan Ross said they had decided to hold the meeting due to "local interest". "We’re just facilitators, really," he continued. "It’s difficult to say at this stage what the level of interest is but certainly there’s been quite a few views expressed to me in support of it. There are others who are against it, but this is only step one in a long process. There will have to be a postal ballot and it is only then a decision will be made as to what will happen next. If there is no support, nothing will happen." 


The North Harris Estate, which covers 55,000 acres, has been in community ownership since 2003 and in 2010 the residents of the West Harris Estate took control of their land. Both of these estates, which border South Harris, have enjoyed a degree of rejuvenation under community ownership. Asked if their example had fuelled interest in South Harris, Mr Ross replied: "Absolutely, without a doubt. And there’s Scalpay as well, which is about to be passed into community hands." 


Community Land Scotland chairman David Cameron, who lives in Tarbert, said: "It is great news that another community in the Western Isles is exploring the possibility of community ownership. It will be up to the people what they do next, but at the very least they are considering it and that’s very encouraging." 


There are also discussions surrounding a community buy-out in North Vist.