Lairg Community Housing Project
The eight houses being built by Albyn Housing Society on the former Sutherland Arms Hotel site are the first investment in social housing that Lairg has seen since Glenburn was constructed in the mid-1990s, nearly 30 years ago.
All eight houses will be wheelchair accessible throughout. Four houses will have two bedrooms and will be allocated under the normal allocation process through the Highland Housing register.
The four FIT homes are part of an initiative to provide housing for residents with higher levels of support needs. They've been designed after consultation with health professionals, families and carers to enable people to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible, through the use of technology. They are designed to be flexible and respond to the changing needs of the residents, providing extra space for specialist support and care when required. This type of housing is being built in only three other places in the Highlands. The Lairg houses will be the only ones in a rural community, the others being in Inverness, Nairn and Dingwall.
The project itself has attracted the highest level of public sector funding seen in Lairg for a very long time. Albyn Housing Society has contributed £600,000, and Highland Council's contribution is £200,000 from its infrastructure fund, and a further £200,000 from the City Region Deal money. The bulk of the total project cost of £2.3 million comes from the Scottish Government, who have made £1.3 million available from the More Homes Division. Lairg & District Community Initiatives (LDCI) has donated the land on which the houses are being built, and the surrounding parking, access areas, and so on, at an indicative value of £90,000. The financial leverage this donation has achieved is therefore very substantial. The rest of the Sutherland Arms site remains with LDCI, and thus in community ownership.
LDCI is very grateful to everyone who has helped bring the project to this stage, and especially to our project manager, Susan Clark. Susan's knowledge and advice has steered it through the complexities of planning, the setback of Covid, and much more besides. We can now look forward to the indicative completion date of May 2024.
· Allocations to Fit Homes are made through a nominations process and can be made by NHS Highland, Albyn Housing Society and the Highland Council. To find out more email: email@example.com
· The Highland Housing Register is for people who are applying for housing in the Highlands. Applications can be made online at:
Sutherland Arms Hotel
The original hotel opened its doors in 1891, enjoying over 100 years of trading on this prime site. It closed its doors for the final time in 1998, following years of financial neglect into maintenance and marketing. The hotel building was finally demolished in 2007, and all that remains of this once thriving business is the former coach house, gardens and ice house. Following the closure and subsequent demolition of the Sutherland Arms Hotel the residents of the Parish of Lairg were asked if they supported the proposal of the Lairg and District Community Initiatives to exercise on behalf of the community, the ‘Community Right to Buy’ under the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003.
In July 2010, the previous owner of the former Sutherland Arms Hotel site placed the site on the open market. This automatically triggered the Community Right to Buy held on the site.
An independent valuer was appointed by the Scottish Ministers and the Highland Council conducted a community ballot on behalf of Lairg and District Community Initiatives.
Following the valuation, the current site owner took the decision to withdraw the site from the market.
Lairg and District Community Initiatives agreed that the ballot count should continue as planned and would clearly evidence the public opinion.
The people of Lairg turned out in significant numbers on a wet and windy Wednesday to attend a consultation event in the community centre.
The Lairg and District Community Initiative (LDCI) and Albyn Housing Society (AHS) invited the community to review draft proposals for some new affordable housing.
In Spring 2019, the two organisations identified a common purpose to develop homes in Lairg, which were designed to support independent living within the village for older people or those with medical needs. LDCI had already made significant progress by conducting a feasibility study and securing funding to purchase the site of the former Sutherland Arms Hotel which had lain empty for some years.
Albyn Housing aim to deliver four “FIT” homes as the rural phase of an innovative project funded by the Scottish Government’s City Region Deal. These homes are flexible in design to accommodate a person’s changing needs and, are further enabled by technology as part of a research and development project to develop software which aims to predict changing health.
The Lairg and District Community Initiative have developed plans for community owned flexible homes for older people which are of a scale and design to allow ease of movement for a someone who may need to use a wheelchair or who may need care. These are designed to full wheelchair standard with wet rooms and storage designed to cater for the needs of older people or those with dementia.
The very positive feedback from members of the community who attended the event will enable both organisations to move forward confidently to the next stage. We aim to submit a formal planning application in Spring 2020.
Albyn Chief Executive Officer Lisa Buchanan said
“We believe that in working collaboratively with our community partners, both organisations are in a stronger position to deliver homes which meet the needs of people in Lairg and which will have a positive and lasting impact on the village.