The view from the village of Bowmore on Islay overlooking the loch is stunning on a good day, so it’s no surprise that the 20 new flats being built in the village are in high demand. However, these are not for the lucrative private housing or holiday home market – they are providing valuable affordable housing for the local community.
The flats are the first phase of Project Shoreline, a development plan conceived by Islay Estates and supported by Argyll and Bute Council and Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA). Through the implementation of a master plan, it will provide much-needed affordable housing, as well as breathing new life into the area through future planned commercial development.
Islay Estates has been owned by the Morrison family since the 1850s, but has always been an important part of the island’s economy. Lord Alastair Margadale, Chairman, Islay Estates Company said that Islay Estates sees its future intrinsically linked with the long-term economic health of the island and it is this ethos that has shaped much of its development plans. He explained: “It’s what the estate is all about. In order for the island to develop and thrive, we need to enable economic development, and that means people; creating jobs and homes for them to live in. That’s why we developed Project Shoreline – to reinvigorate the area around Bowmore and to allocate more land for housing development.”
The estate has committed over £100,000 to the project, transferring land for the first 20 houses free to ACHA, paying legal fees for land transfer, planning costs and the costs of the planning application as well as investing considerable staff time from the estate's own staff.
The estate’s ultimate plan is to build up to 200 houses in the area, but the project would have never got off the ground if it had not been for the support of the council and ACHA working together to realise the mutual benefits of such an innovative development.
Councillor Robin Currie, Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Community and Culture, explained: “We were interested in the affordable housing element of Islay Estates’ development plans for Bowmore as there is a big demand for rented accommodation across the island. It has the second-highest demand in the council region, with 14 families looking for housing for every new property that comes up for rent.”
Alastair MacGregor, Chief Executive from ACHA, added: “We have a housing waiting list of more than 3,500 across Argyll and Bute and it’s very difficult to develop new housing on the islands because of the extra transportation and labour costs. We’ve been talking with Islay Estates for a number of years about its Shoreline Project and have been keen to explore options to develop an affordable housing solution”.
The 20 affordable houses that make up the first phase of the Shoreline Project were completed in July 2015 and are now all fully occupied by members of the local community, and work has now commenced on phase two of the project - a mix of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom properties.