Island social enterprise under threat

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Bùth Bharraigh says it will be forced to close if it has to move to a new site proposed by the local authority

6th December 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

An island social enterprise has said it faces an uncertain future with its home set to be demolished.

Bùth Bharraigh, a local producer co-operative, visitor information provider and community hub in Castlebay, has said it is under orders from the local authority to move from its current location in the former Co-op building close to the ferry terminal.

The demolition of the building is part a regeneration programme for Barra and Vatersay which could deliver up to £2 million for the local area.

However the social enterprise has said a new site proposed for it to relocate to by the authority would put it out of business as it is not located where newly arrived tourists can find it.

It clams the unit is being offered half a mile away is much smaller, more expensive and is not a good location for tourist information.

Director Sarah Maclean accused the council of ignoring its concerns. “They should be working with us to get the best outcome for Barra and our business,” she said.

“We’re a successful community business and we’re under constant threat. We haven’t been able to develop and barriers have been put in our way. We’ve been held back. We have even won Rural Social Enterprise of the Year – and that was a UK award – and it just doesn’t make a bit of difference.

“They will be putting producers’ takings and jobs at risk if they force us to move.

“We’re open when the ferry comes in and we’ve taken on the tourist information and we don’t get any money for that. That is a big service that we provide and if we move half a mile it’s going to be so difficult for visitors to get accommodation and information on arrival.

“The big thing for me is the frustration that the council don’t recognise what a great thing we are doing. Plus, it’s the frustration that they just don’t get back to us. We asked them for a meeting recently and it was just ignored.”

Plans to redevelop the site of the former Co-op have been discussed since 2012, but Bùth Bharraigh said local opinion on what to do with the building has changed and the authority has made decisions behind closed doors.

A spokesman for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said regeneration plans for the Co-op building and surrounding area reflected the wishes of the local community, and would deliver investment of up to £2m in Barra.

“Bùth Bharraigh was made aware of the Comhairle’s intention to demolish the building prior to the Comhairle facilitating its temporary occupancy of the building in late 2013 and this occupation was always intended to be of a temporary nature.

“Castlebay Community Council confirmed their decision in 2016 that the old Co-op building be demolished as part of the South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme.

“The Comhairle has continued to support Bùth Bharraigh with alternative premises including specialist advisory support.

“The Comhairle continues to make significant investments to support a range of business and community projects in Barra, recognising the contribution which Bùth Bharraigh and other community enterprises make to the local economy.”