Island trust accuses council of causing its collapse

AN ISLAND organisation set up to help save crumbling historic buildings has itself collapsed, blaming the local council for helping cause its demise.

The Lewis and Harris Building Preservation Trust announced that it had ceased to function with immediate effect.

It has put into doubt a project to rescue the Lady Matheson Seminary in Stornoway and convert it into a music school.

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A spokesman for the trust said: "This unfortunate state of affairs has been brought about by the actions of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council], firstly by reneging on a verbal agreement to underwrite the second stage of the project and secondly by the council removing the project from the Townscape Heritage Initiative Programme, despite the Lady Matheson Seminary being classified as a critical project and despite it being the only THI project which had reached the planning stage of readiness."

The trust claims the council's action have meant consultants' fees were not paid on the project and the authority losing 105,000 of reclaimable grant which is now having to be met by taxpayers.

It has now lodged a series of complaints with the council and called for a full investigation.

The seminary, or industrial female school, was built in 1848 by Sir James and Lady Matheson for the education of girls from poor families.

Sir James made his fortune in the tea and opium trades in the Far East and in 1844 returned to Scotland when he bought the island of Lewis for 190,000.

The trust said it now hopes some mechanism can be found to save the seminary building from collapse.

A council spokesman said: "The Comhairle is following up on the complaints submitted by the Lewis and Harris Buildings Preservation Trust and it would be therefore be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

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