The Herald

Island’s masterplan could see its population soar from six to 100

New homes, businesses and a tourism boom are part of a new vision for the island of Ulva, reports Sandra Dick


THE tiny west coast island of Ulva is just three miles wide and seven miles long, and despite its unspoiled beauty and rural charms, its once thriving community dwindled to a mere handful decades ago.

Now, however, a masterplan for the island has set out a grand vision of how the community-owned isle could be reborn for a new age, with enough renovated and new homes to boost the population from six as it stands now, to more than 100.

The number is twice the population that had been suggested for the island over the next two decades.

Included in the plan, just approved by Argyll and Bute Council Planning Committee, are ambitious hopes to unlock the island’s untapped tourist potential with a range of new accommodat­ion, campsites, and heritage facilities.

Although the population and visitor numbers would soar if all elements of the masterplan are eventually adopted, it lays down a determinat­ion to retain Ulva’s unique charms, including its lack of vehicles and absence of tarred roads.

As a result, anyone hoping to live on the island will have to sign up to a policy that restricts the types of vehicles permitted on the island, with a preference towards small electric vehicles.

And the only “normal” vehicles allowed will be limited numbers of quad bikes, vans, pick-ups, tractors and others regarded as essential to support agricultur­e and land management, while residents and visitors will be encouraged to use electric bikes to get around the island’s tracks.

As well as identifyin­g sites for new-build properties to accommodat­e an influx of new residents, the masterplan lays out how agricultur­e on the island may be re-establishe­d, starting with the herd of 35 Highland cattle that arrived on the island last year.

Old township grazing and field systems cultivated over generation­s but which have been smothered by bracken over the past two decades are also earmarked to be brought back into use.

Each piece of the island’s enclosed farmland has been extensivel­y assessed for its agricultur­e and biodiversi­ty..

There is also scope for new businesses, including the return of an oyster farm at Soriby Bay to the north of the island, improved access for inshore fishing and haul-out facilities for small vessels.

Grade B listed Ulva House is earmarked to be developed into a heritage centre telling the story of the island and its people throughout millennia, while there is also a suggestion the island could become a “Dark Skies” destinatio­n, helping to boost off-season tourism.

The island, off the west coast of Mull, has been inhabited for more than

7,000 years, but suffered three centuries of population decline.

In 1837 it had a resident population of 604 people in 16 villages, but by 1841 the population­s of Ulva and neighbouri­ng Gometra had slumped to just 150 due to the impact of the

Highland Clearances and potato famine.

The island is now home to just six people, including two primary school age children. However, the population soars during summer seasons when up to 7,000 tourists make the short journey from Mull by ferry.

Ulva currently has a housing stock of eight properties, including B-listed Ulva House, and Ardalum House, but just three are occupied. Along with a manse, there is a listed church built by Thomas Telford, a number of farm buildings, derelict properties and two bothies.

Under the masterplan, new homes could be built at three locations.

Ulva developmen­t manager Wendy Reid said: “The masterplan is a small but significan­t step that sets out the intention and framework for the future developmen­ts.

“People can now see what we are trying to do and what our aspiration­s are.”

Although the plans suggest up to 103 full-time residents could live on Ulva – double what was originally suggested – it’s expected the number is unlikely to reach its top level.

“When we sat and looked at the potential housing plan and what we could do with farm steadings and old farm buildings, there was the possibilit­y of more flexibilit­y than we had anticipate­d without over-populating or overdevelo­pment and without losing the integrity and feel of the island,” she added.

“We realised they could be absorbed without changing the nature of the place.

“We could ultimately have that many people, but it would take a while and a lot would depend on the people coming in and the buildings they occupied.”

The plan is a significan­t step that sets out the framework for the future

 ??  ?? The ferry carrying visitors from Mull to Ulva helps boost the island’s economy by bringing about 7,000 tourists during the summer season
The ferry carrying visitors from Mull to Ulva helps boost the island’s economy by bringing about 7,000 tourists during the summer season
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