Bid to protect abandoned hospital in Outer Hebrides

A move has been made to protect an abandoned hospital in the Outer Hebrides given its long connection with families on the islands.

The bid to get listed building status for the derelict Lochmaddy Hospital in North Uist comes as developers propose to build 12 affordable homes in the grounds and later demolish part of the hospital to create more flats in the future.

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The building, which has been sitting empty for 17 years, opened as a poor house in 1883 and later served as an asylum before becoming a general hospital.

Lochmaddy Hospital, North Uist, is set to be developed but a bid has now been made to get it listed building status given its long connection to the island communities it served. PIC: Urban Animation.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, who has applied for listed building status, said most families on the islands had a connection to the hospital, which it says serves as a significant landmark in both the landscape and “mental map” of the North Uist community.

A statement from the council said: “The construction of this building and its change of use over the following century reflects the social change and improvements of the area over time.

"This is a building that almost every family in North Uist would have had an important interaction with through birth, wellbeing and death. As such this building also served as a focus for the spread out communities of the isles and was an important place of employment.”

Meanwhile, a planning application for the hospital site was lodged earlier this year by Benbecula-based construction firm MacInnes Brothers. The proposals were drawn up in conjunction with social housing landlord Hebridean Housing Partnership and Tighean Innse Gall, which supports people to live independently in affordable homes.

The imposing building served as a landmark in both the landscape and "mental memory" of islanders with most families having a connection to the site. PIC: Urban Animation.

After Lochmaddy Hospital closed, the property lay empty and was then sold by Western Isles Health Board to London Shetland Securities Ltd in 2008.

The latest development proposals bring back into focus the future use for the site, with an earlier 2015 community-led plan to create housing for art students from Lews Castle College – along with the prospect of affordable housing and a residential base for Gaelic learners – never materialising given commitments could not be made by some partners.

The site was later bought by MacInnes Brothers, which has applied to build 12 affordable homes, including family houses, on the site in the first phase of development with demolition of part of the hospital and creation of flats in the remainder of building to follow. Four holiday cabins will also be built in the grounds.

The development has been designed to meet housing need, create employment and support the local economy, the design statement said.

Richard Heggie, planning consultant with Urban Animation, who led the development of a feasibility study for the the hospital site in 2015, said the community had earlier supported the original hospital building being retained.

He said: “The former hospital building is an imposing landmark both physically and culturally. Our feasibility study for the community trust in 2015 found strong support locally for retaining the original building in any redevelopment of the site.”

A spokesman for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was approached for comment.

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