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Q&A: What's next for the Bays of Harris Community Ownership bid?

Eighteen months ago, residents of the Bays in Harris voted to move forward with plans for a community buyout. Dè tha dol? caught up with the interim Board of the Bays of Harris Estate to find out what has been happening since.



Can you give an update on the Bays of Harris Estate buyout?

The Estate is in the process of being valued and we were hopeful that it would have been completed by now. Unfortunately, there have been some delays surrounding this which have been outwith our control. Once we have the valuation, we can negotiate a price with the current owner and apply for funding to help towards the purchase of the Estate.


What are the next steps?

Ultimately, we hope to purchase the Estate before the end of the year. Before that happens though, as mentioned above, we need to secure the funding to purchase the Estate (which we can't do until we have the valuation) as well as negotiate and agree on a price with the current owner.


What are the biggest challenges?

Currently, our main challenge is the wait to have the Estate valued as we can't move forward until this has been done. The Estate was valued at £1.1 million back in 2017, but we anticipate that that figure will be slightly higher now. The Scottish Land Fund can provide funding towards the cost of the purchase, and with the value likely higher than their normal funding level, we need to be able to demonstrate strong community membership in support of the buyout.


Are there successes to celebrate?

The positive response from the ballot that was held in 2022 - where 63% of residents voted in favour of community ownership from a turnout of 70% - was a turning point for moving the buyout plans forward. The Bays of Harris Estate Ltd (a not for profit company) was then formed and have been working to move buyout plans forward since. One of the things the interim board has been working on recently is to encourage membership to the company. It's free to become a member, there is no need to commit to anything by becoming a member (although we would encourage anybody who wants to get involved to get in touch!) but we believe a good membership will demonstrate the willingness of the community to bring the Estate under community ownership.


Am I eligible for membership?

Anyone 16 or over can become a member, but only 'ordinary members' (i.e. those living within the Estate) will be eligible to have a vote on any decisions that are being made. We are keen to involve and hear from young people too, and have a junior membership available for 12-15 year olds. Associate membership is available to those who live outwith the Estate, but are happy to support the buyout plans. There are currently around 700 people living in the Bays of Harris Estate (which covers the Bays, Northton and Berneray) and we would like to have a good representation of residents become members in the coming months. Currently, 100 people have become members so far and we would encourage anyone who is interested to apply to become a member too.


Who is taking the plans forward?

The interim board are responsible for moving things forward to the point of purchase. Because the current interim board are all volunteers who have an interest in the buyout plans, once the land has been purchased, there will be an AGM soon after to democratically elect board members. Ordinary members will be able to vote on who they want to be on the board, and be able to put themselves forward for election if they wish too.


How can members of the community get involved?

Look on our website: www.baysofharris.org or on our social media pages: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @baysofharris. Anyone can apply online to become a member, complete the form below, or pick up a paper membership form from the Clachan, Brownie’s or AD Munro’s. These can then be returned to us by post or by dropping to the HVS Office, Old Primary School, Tarbert."


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