Ulva com­mu­nity buy-out back on track

The Oban Times - - NEWS - Sale

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.

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