Hugh Smith: Skye village offers a blueprint for other rural communities

Elgol and Cuillin mountains, Isle of Skye. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Elgol and Cuillin mountains, Isle of Skye. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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NEWS that the proposed Kilbeg village on Skye has received planning permission is great news for the island and should also be welcomed across the rest of Scotland. The village is situated in south Skye within the estate of the Clan Donald Lands Trust, a site of national heritage.

The 40-acre Kilbeg development will include a campus with teaching space next to Sabhal Mor Ostaig College, part of the new University of the Highlands and Islands, as well as more than 90 affordable homes, enterprise units and a green space assigned for community leisure use.

Kilbeg sits in one of the most scenic locations in Scotland. The Clan Donald Lands Trust, which I advise, is committed to working with Sabhal Mor Ostaig and the community to ensure that all development on the site is of the highest quality and reflects its own core ambition to preserve its historic lands for the benefit of all clansfolk and those interested in Highland culture throughout the world.

While the village will be constructed in phases over 20 years, the project has real potential to address some of the big social problems that affect an island community such as Skye. The proposal will enable expansion of the local college’s conference facilities, which will enhance communications and potentially attract further academic and business events to the island. Sabhal Mor Ostaig College has contributed to the regeneration and growth of Skye since its creation in 1973 and this further expansion will ensure it continues to play a key role in bolstering island life.

The Kilbeg development is significant as it will also deliver new housing – including many affordable homes and potential plans for a care home – all needed within the local community.

The commercial aspects of the village are also important to help create more local employment opportunities and enhance the overall economy on Skye. This includes a provision to build a hotel to add further support to the island’s all-important tourism sector.

While Kilbeg will occupy just one small corner of a Scottish island, it offers a fantastic blueprint of how rural communities can potentially reverse the decline they’ve seen in recent decades.

• Hugh Smith is property partner at legal firm Shepherd & Wedderburn