A long delayed ballot over a community buyout of the Bays of Harris estate will finally
be held this year, it has been announced.
Progress was stalled when the private owners of the Bays of Harris estate indicated
they had no desire to sell.
However, they said they recognised the move toward community ownership throughout
Scotland and in particular the Western Isles.
The estate is owned by the Hitchcock family who bought it for £5000 after the death
of Lord Leverhulme, a founder of what is now the Unilever multinational giant, in
The feasibility study - originally due to be published in December 2014 - is about
ready and will be used as a blueprint for the economic and social regeneration of
the 30,000 acre area.
Blighted by severe depopulation, the estate has an aging community and falling numbers
of young people.
There is a dire lack of jobs and what work exists is dominated by small scale creel
fishing, tourism and public sector employment.
Neighbouring buyout estates like West Harris and North Harris, including the Scalpay
takeover, have enjoyed a new-found drive for regeneration and development once the
land was in communal ownership.
Pros and cons of the community buyout will be examined before villagers will cast
their vote whether to purchase the land or leave things as they are.
Steering group chairman, John Maher, said: “The group has been communicating with
the four landlords in order to obtain the required detailed information regarding
the Bays of Harris Estate and sufficient facts and figures have now been obtained
for the feasibility study to be completed.”
A series of public consultation meetings will be held where a summary of the report
will be presented to the wider community.
Mr Maher added: “It has taken a long time to reach this point due to the complexity
of the composition of the Bays of Harris Estate.
“The steering group is looking forward to taking the report to the 700 residents
within the estate.”
The estate is unusual as it is split into three separate tracts of land, segregated
by land and sea, in the middle of the Outer Hebrides.
The area runs from Direcleit towards Leverburgh. A separate parcel of land at Northon
is landlocked between two other estates.
Across the Sound of Harris, is the Isle of Berneray as well as the uninhabited Hermetray
group of islands off North Uist, which are also included.
If a buyout proceeded successfully, it would take the majority of Harris under community
ownership and leave three other communities, Rodel lands, Leverburgh lands and Kyles
Leverburgh in private ownership.
Bays of Harris buyout proposal makes progress towards ballot