Ullapool Community Trust assisted the Isle Martin Trust (IMT) to secure funding from HIE’s TalentScotland programme and Highland Council for a 10 month graduate position. The successful candidate, Alexander MacLeod, appraised the different development options available for the island and produced a business plan.
Isle Martin is a community owned island located to the north west of Ullapool in the mouth of Lochbroom. At one point the island was home to over 50 people and over the years it has incorporated a herring station, flour mill and a crofting community. Isle Martin was gifted to the RSPB in 1979 by a private landowner and then in turn to the people of Lochbroom and Coigach in 1999. Four houses remain on the island although none are occupied all year round.
The Isle Martin Trust manages the island on behalf of the community and aim to protect and enhance the island’s ecology while also encouraging open access to the land. However IMT also seek to develop income streams which will make the island financially sustainable. This has already led to IMT delivering a project which improved the jetty on the island and created a car park on the mainland at Ardmair. As a result people can visit the island in the summer and take part in organised history walks while basic accommodation is available on the island for groups to rent for parties, weddings etc.
However the buildings on the island are in poor condition and use very old and unreliable diesel generators to produce power and heat which, coupled to the access issues with the mainland pier, result in low visitor numbers. As a result IMT have been keen for some time to improve the island’s buildings, power supply and access and increase visitor numbers and overnight stays. While part of Powerdown, UCT worked in partnership with IMT to investigate the opportunities available to replace existing diesel generators with renewable energy systems. This partnership led to a feasibility study being completed looking into the different technologies available and outlining their estimated costs and potential design. However, unfortunately funding was not secured to take forward these plans.
The Community Growth Plan includes development of existing community assets as a priority and UCT have continued to work with IMT since the conclusion of Powerdown. In 2011 UCT and IMT submitted an application to the Big Lottery’s Investing in Ideas for funding that would enable IMT to carry out further feasibility work, determine the capital expenditure required and develop a business plan for the island. However, unfortunately this application was also unsuccessful. UCT and IMT then made applications to the Coastal Communities Fund and the European Fisheries Fund for funding which would allow IMT to appoint a development officer to take forward the feasibility work and develop a business plan. However both applications were again unsuccessful.
For more information on Isle Martin please visit the IMT Website.