May 01 2014

arnish

Pairc buy-out: success at last

Filed under Land ownership

After a lengthy, convoluted and at times acrimonious journey, the community of the Pairc Estate have voted to buy the estate from landlord Barry Lomas. The outcome of the ballot was announced this evening, with 166 in favour and 77 against, out of a turn-out of just over 62%.

This buy-out has taken more than ten years. I am pleased that it has proved successful in the end, and would like to wish the Pairc Trust good luck, prosperity and foresight in their management of the estate.

No responses yet

Apr 25 2014

arnish

Lews Castle accommodation

Filed under Economy, Tourism

It is reported that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have awarded the lease for the provision of accommodation at Lews Castle to the company Natural Retreats. It is worth noting that this accommodation will not just comprise of self-catering units, but also of serviced accommodation (read: hotel rooms), a fact that continues to be omitted from local news reports.

A couple of years ago, the Comhairle finally managed to secure funding for the refurbishment of the Castle, which has lain in disrepair for years. This work is now nearing completion, meaning that the Castle can be put to use for the benefit of the whole of the Western Isles. Natural Retreats will be paying a commercial rent until at least 2044, and contribute towards the cost of the refurbishment.

Local providers of self-catering accommodation are opposed to this move on the grounds that the Castle development will stand in direct competition to their businesses.

The Council is obliged to obtain best value for money from the use of its assets, in this case Lews Castle. It is my conviction that they will have weighed up pros and cons. There will also have been a tendering exercise, as they are obliged to do under European laws, as a result of which Natural Retreats has been awarded the lease.

Further details are to be worked out in the next few weeks and months.

The Castle will open to the public next year. Apart from accommodation, it will host a cafeteria and a museum and archives section.

No responses yet

Apr 14 2014

arnish

Harbour works

Filed under Transport

On 8 September this year, the new ferry MV Loch Seaforth will arrive in Stornoway. She is due to take over from the current vessel, MV Isle of Lewis at a later stage.  As the new ferry is larger, and has a greater capacity for vehicles, the marshalling and carparking areas around the ferry terminal have to be enlarged. Works will commence, and those involved in the construction (like the contractors, Calmac and police) ask the public for patience. This article on the Stornoway Gazette website will outline the impact in the interim.

The main points for the next few weeks:

  • Staff and long-stay carpark has closed
  • Carpark at pier no 1 will be closed from 18 April
  • Ferry will dock at pier no 1 from 5 May

Detailed plans are on display in Stornoway ferry terminal, in the bay to the left of the entrance from the carpark.

One response so far

Mar 12 2014

arnish

Lews Castle

Filed under Uncategorized

For quite a few years now, Lews Castle has lain derelict and unusued. The building was in state of disrepair, but is currently being refurbished. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have been in the process of getting a private sector operator to take on the running of the Castle as an accommodation provider. Also included in the Castle project is a section for the Western Isles Museum (currently closed).

The Chief Executive of CnES has penned a letter to Hebrides News, outlining the current state of affairs.

I am very pleased that this iconic building is finally going to be put to good use. It has always saddened me to have had to tell visitors that you can’t enter the Castle. As of next year, we will be able to.

No responses yet

Mar 08 2014

arnish

Pairc buy-out: vote suspended

Filed under Uncategorized

Whatever next, in this saga. Because an amicable deal could not be reached before the deadline of 7 March, the vote among the residents of Pairc has been called off. If no deal can be reached, the hostile buy-out bid will be resumed. Should it be possible to iron out those final glitches, then a new ballot will be organised. I think it is ominous that the deal could not be finalised ahead of yesterday’s deadline, and completely in character for the way this buy-out bid has progressed, or failed to progress more to the point.

No responses yet

Mar 04 2014

arnish

Pairc buy-out

Voting is underway among residents of the Pairc Estate in the South Lochs area of Lewis, to determine whether they wish to accept a deal with current landowner Barry Lomas. The result of the vote will be known on March 13th. I have written extensively about this case, and it only remains for me to conclude that although the road has been hard, long and dirty, it would appear that the community of Pairc now has ownership of (most of) its land within its grasp.

No responses yet

Feb 26 2014

arnish

Interconnector

Filed under Uncategorized

The Energy Minister in the Scottish Government visited Stornoway on Monday to attend a summit on renewable energy in the Scottish islands. He stated that the interconnector (between Grabhair and Dundonnell) was his personal top priority, and that having the interconnector in situ would help to alleviate fuel poverty. Excuse me? Are we going to get reduced rate for electricity? I don’t think so. And my position on the community benefits of renewable energy schemes is well known; beads and mirrors from the developers. I’m not saying that a million pounds is to be sniffed at, but it is derisory in comparison to the money that the developers are going to pocket from revenues from the electricity, as well as from subsidies from government. Windfarms may bring a little benefit to the islands, but many tourists come to the Hebrides for the wilderness aspect. Having industrial sites, like the one already present on the foothills of the Barvas Hills, or the one proposed for the electrical substation at Grabhair, will seriously detract from that. Tourism is the mainstay of the islands’ economy - it would be foolhardy to dice with that.

One response so far

Feb 26 2014

arnish

Ferry tales, ferry woes

Filed under Uncategorized

The ferry service from Stornoway to Ullapool (and back) has been having a very bad winter, and not just due to the bad weather. A stormy period of two months came to an end in early February, but that is pretty much par for the course here. What is not, is the litany of mishaps that has bedeviled the boats.

It started when the MV Clipper Ranger crashed into pier number 1, and required a spell in drydock to repair her buckled plating. Her replacement, the MV Hebridean Isles, suffered a similar fate, but the damage to that boat could be fixed at Stornoway in a day. Meanwhile, the MV Isle of Lewis, was in drydock at Birkenhead for three weeks for its annual overhaul. Upon return to the run, she encountered a very rough crossing last Friday morning, and upon arrival at Ullapool, her rudder was found to be faulty. That could not be fixed locally either, so at the moment of typing, she is being patched up prior to returning to drydock in Birkenhead. The replacement vessel is the MV Isle of Arran, a much smaller vessel and local rumour has it that passengers are shipped on the Arran whilst their vehicles go on the Clipper Ranger. Allegedly.

Isle of Arran

Hebridean Isles

No responses yet

Feb 01 2014

arnish

Flooding

Filed under Uncategorized

This morning, a 5.5 metre high tide overtopped the quays at Stornoway and flooded part of the town centre. North Beach was well under water, and police had closed Cromwell Street, North Beach Street and Castle Street. Some intrepid people even got their surfboards out.

P2017357 P2017349 P2017346 P2017339 P2017331 P2017327

No responses yet

Feb 01 2014

arnish

Clipper Ranger

Filed under Transport

Our new freight ferry, the Clipper Ranger, suffered a mishap last Tuesday (28 January), when she lost all power whilst manoeuvering to dock at pier no 1 here in Stornoway. As a result, the impetus of the ship carried her forcefully into the pier. Then she bounced off the fendering and drifted in the harbour, narrowly missing running aground in the Castle Grounds.

The damage to the ship necessitated it being patched up prior to it being taken to drydock in Liverpool for repairs.

For the time being, the MV Hebridean Isles is taking freight back and forth to Ullapool

No responses yet

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