Highland community invests in its future

Image credit: Kearney Donald Partnership

A larch-clad school has opened in the Highlands thanks in part to a community shares scheme set up by locals in the village of Strontian, western Lochaber.

Parents of the 30-strong school roll had rejected proposals to address the inadequate state of the old school building which dated back to the 1970s. Those had included renovation or rehousing the school in modular units.

Instead, in partnership with their development agents the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, the community group has created a brand new building and leased it to Highland Council.

Built by S & K MacDonald Homes of Acharacle, the building has been described as “highly energy efficient”, resulting in low running costs and a “healthy and attractive” learning environment. Features include underfloor heating and timber windows. Architects on the project were Kearney Donald Partnership.

The community share offer raised over £155,000 from 71 members who, as investors, have a say in the running and the future of the project.

The majority of capital costs were raised through a commercial loan, with other support coming from fundraising and grants from funders such as the Scottish Land Fund, Foundation Scotland and the Sunart Community Benefit Fund. The latter fund was established to disburse profits generated by a community hydro scheme built by Sunart Community Renewables. Highland Council also provided a contribution towards fitting out the building.

James Proctor, programme manager at Community Shares Scotland (CSS) said, “Through this pioneering collaboration with Highland Council, the community is investing in its own future and facilities for the next generation.”

CSS supports groups raising funds for community projects in Scotland through a community shares scheme.