Nine new homes to be built at Highland beauty spot on site of former exotic fruit farm
Nine new homes will be built for locals in a Highland beauty spot on land once home to a tropical fruit farm.
The land at Achiltibuie on the Coigach coast, which overlooks the Summer Isles, is the site of a former hydroponicum built by Scottish television and film director Robert Irvine. Produce grown here was served to his guests at the Summer Isles Hotel, which he owned. The horticultural enterprise, which used the-then experimental approach of growing crops in water and not soil, became a tourist attraction in its own right.
The three-acre plot has now been bought by Coigach Community Development Company, with plans to build nine house for those with a local connection amid hopes the new properties will draw young families into the area.
Development officer Julia Campbell said the land had been bought from a firm registered in the Isle of Man that had links to a business in the area.
Ms Campbell said: “We are absolutely delighted that this has all gone through. The main problem facing the area is depopulation and that is largely down to lack of housing. We basically have a 100 per cent employment rate, but, especially for young people, getting a house is nigh on impossible . We live in a scenic area, it is popular for holiday homes.”
Around 50 per cent of the homes are not inhabited on a permanent basis, it is estimated.
Ms Campbell said: "It is not quite as simple and straightforward as saying half are holiday houses. There are some which have been inherited, old houses which are not suitable for living in anymore. There are also some local folk who have the old family home and perhaps use it as a small lettings business.
"We hope to attract young families, people who will be economically active. We need children at our school, which is in a bit of a crisis.
"We plan to prioritise people who have a connection to the area and that can include people who live here and people who want to return. A lot of people come up here for a temporary job, they end up liking it, meeting someone and want to settle down.”
Ms Campbell said architects were now being appointed with hopes work will start on site by this time next year. She said many local people had a connection to the old hydroponicum, which became a significant local employer.
A newspaper cutting dated July 1987 said a “space age dome” had appeared next to the hotel, which Mr Irvine purchased in the early 1980s as he relocated to Wester Ross from London, where he ran a successful film and television production company.
Ms Campbell said: “The thing it was remembered for was that it grew bananas. It was like a small botanic garden with a different climate with stuff grown using hydroponics, which was quite revolutionary at the time. It was a bit of an experimental enterprise. They used to hire tour guides to show people round and a lot of people in the community were involved in it.”
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