Ulva community buy-out back on track
THE ISLE of Ulva is back off the market again after a community group re-submitted its corrected buy-out plan, writes Sandy Neil.
The Inner Hebridean island, which went on sale for £4.25 million, was quickly taken off the market in July when the North West Community Woodland Company applied to the Scottish Government under the Community Right to Buy Legislation.
Last week the company briefly withdrew its application, as a director John Addy explained: ‘An application was made to the Scottish Government and in July a hold was put on any sale of Ulva pending a decision by Scottish ministers on whether to agree to register the community interest and trigger the right-tobuy process.
‘Since that application was made, and after our initial legal searches had been carried out, we became aware that the ownership of certain parts of the Ulva Estate was now different from the information included in our application. We also learned that certain parts of the estate would not be put on the market. Other matters surrounding boundaries of land and details of executors also came to light after the application was submitted.
‘As these matters would mean that the application would inevitably be declined by Scottish ministers on these issues, the decision was taken to withdraw it.
‘Instead we have submitted a new application which addresses the above matters. This means a further prohibition has been put on the proposed sale while this new application is considered by Scottish ministers.’
Ulva, possibly derived from the old Norse for ‘wolf’s island’, inspired Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lord Of The Isles in 1815, and children’s author Beatrix Potter after her cousin Caroline married the Laird of Ulva and dedicated two of her books to Caroline’s son ‘Francis William of Ulva’.
The 7.5-mile-by-2.5-mile island was also home to the Victorian explorer Dr David Livingstone’s paternal grandparents, and the birthplace of Major General Lachlan MacQuarrie, known as the ‘Father of Australia’, in 1810. At its height the population stood at more than 800, but it suffered a remorseless loss of people with more than 500 cleared in the four decades after 1841 alone.
The 4,600-acre island, which went on sale for the first time in 70 years, comes with a manor house, church, a restaurant and a tearoom and sporting lodge plus eight more properties.
The North West Mull Community Woodland Company wishes to reverse Ulva’s depopulation, doubling its inhabitants from five to 10 in five years and up to 30 after 20 years, and turn around its ‘economic and social decline’. Mr Addy said: ‘The agents for the estate have said it is currently running at an annual loss of around £100,000 and there are presently just a handful of permanent residents.
‘This sale marks a crossroads in the history of Ulva and North West Mull. It provides a golden opportunity to ensure the survival and bolster the development of a fragile and remote community, enabling a vibrant and sustainable future for generations to come.
‘This is just the first step of many in the ambition to buy Ulva and its associated holdings at Ulva Ferry on the mainland of Mull for the community. We are under no illusions about the scale of the task.
‘The default position would be continued private ownership with no assurance of significant community benefit. Indeed there could be every chance of continued decline of economic activity and community participation in the event of Ulva becoming a private recreational estate for an absentee landlord – possibly with restricted or much more difficult access than at present.’
It is hoped the community buyout would reverse depolulation on Ulva.