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Major expansion of Portree to address a chronic undersupply of affordable homes

January 14 2022

Major expansion of Portree to address a chronic undersupply of affordable homes

An application for planning in principle has been filed for the expansion of Portree, the principal settlement of the Isle of Skye, to address a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

Rural Design has prepared a master plan for 250 new homes on behalf of Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association to extend the northern outskirts of the settlement at Kiltaraglen over the next two decades.

Boasting an elevated setting above the established urban centre, offering expansive views towards the Black and Red Cuillin with development working with the established topography and habitats.

In a statement, Rural Design said: "The topography and natural habitat has suggested two different placemaking approaches. The more elevated or ‘rural’ areas allow the open wild landscape to sit between the dispersed clusters of new homes. The homes in the lower or ‘suburban’ area will be more densely arranged and gathered around a series of small green spaces.

"Small commercial units, a community shop, garden and extensive park and outdoor play areas are also proposed. These will be located to serve both the new housing and the existing neighbourhoods to the south - so binding the new development to the north edge of Portree."

A landscape strategy by Raeburn Farquhar Bowen will create a series of neighbourhoods linked by off-road paths and cycleways are planned for the phased build, which will retain stone dykes and tributaries around clusters of new homes.

Large areas of deep peat will be left undisturbed as part of measures to protect the wild landscape.

Minimising the need for private vehicle movements is a priority for the team
Minimising the need for private vehicle movements is a priority for the team
Robust materials and varied pitched roof forms are inspired by the rural vernacular
Robust materials and varied pitched roof forms are inspired by the rural vernacular

The masterplan calls for homes to be clustered around existing topographical features
The masterplan calls for homes to be clustered around existing topographical features


Penny Summers
#1 Posted by Penny Summers on 14 Jan 2022 at 14:17 PM
250 more Airbnbs for Skye?

Perhaps the Isle of Skye should be renamed the Isle of Airbnb, every other property there seems to be on short term rentals.
Nairn's Bairn
#2 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 14 Jan 2022 at 15:49 PM
@#1 This looks like the opposite, thank goodness. Presumably Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association will be making these available for rent or shared equity by those that actually need somewhere to live.

I completely agree that Airbnb and empty or second homes are the scourge of the West Highlands. The sooner they regulate them and impose at least a triple council tax to help fund actual homes the better. It's not too strong to say it's like the second clearances.

And all too often the high-profile Highland houses we see publicised on this website and others are just that - second homes or holiday lets. In an ideal world architectural practices (particularly those professing to be concerned about lack of affordable housing) asked to work on such projects would take the moral high ground and refuse the commission, but money talks. Often too, the clients conceal their ultimate intentions in any case - so many planning applications refer to the creation of a new 'family home', when as soon as they're complete they're on AirBnB or similar.

The only way forward is to tax the homes, or the income, or both, to disincentivise those looking for an easy profit and encourage long lets.
Fat Bloke on Tour
#3 Posted by Fat Bloke on Tour on 14 Jan 2022 at 18:20 PM
Bit of a blob -- forced expansion based on a single plan / development rather than a more organic series of smaller developments based on the existing layout.

Might be an issue of land ownership / land availability / land cost but it looks like dog's breakfast.

Better to go with the lower area -- it could get a bit chilly in the more exposed upper section.

Consequently back to the drawing board -- better 2 five year plans than a 10 year plan that looks hobbled from the off.
Whispering Andy
#4 Posted by Whispering Andy on 17 Jan 2022 at 14:25 PM
Whisper it.......but deary me @2 - people that use Air BnBs for an affordable holiday in the highlands generate a load of money for the area that may otherwise not happen. A terribly shortsighted and inward looking viewpoint.

To suggest some in our profession should reject commissions from a moral perspective is absurd.

I don't have any rental properties, but I don't view those that do as the enemy. They've found a solution that works for everyone, including tourists, their own pocket, local council and local economy. They should be encouraged, not ostracised.
Nairn's Bairn
#5 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 17 Jan 2022 at 15:21 PM

I think it's fairly established now that the lack of houses in rural areas is a real issue. The generation of money is debateable - often visitors load up at a supermarket en route or arrange a supermarket delivery rather than use local grocery stores, and obviously they're not staying in hotels. Restaurants do indeed benefit, but even they will be the first to say that the lack of accommodation means a lack of staff - one restaurant in Argyll couldn't even open last summer because prospective staff couldn't find anywhere to stay.

A healthy tourist industry is essential, but the proliferation of short term lets is actually negatively affecting the industry – it’s eating itself. No accommodation for local families affects local workers, and its even more difficult for incoming workers.

The current setup clearly doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t benefit the Council at all (the opposite, they have to fix more roads and collect more litter without any additional income for resources) and while it does benefit second home owners, they are often outwith the area, so while there is income generated, it’s often not for the local population.

A village full of short term lets is a ghost village. It doesn’t fill local schools, maintain post offices, enable a wide range of employment. There is no community, therefore a lot is being lost.

I would respectfully submit that only allowing for AirBnBs as the way forward is the real short-sighted and inward-looking view.

As an aside, note I did not advocate banning short term lets, merely that a mechanism should be in place to facilitate both control of numbers and contributions to roads / affordable housing, etc. Those AirBnBers who register for rates, get rates relief and therefore don’t pay rates or Council Tax should be particularly ashamed of themselves.
#6 Posted by MV on 17 Jan 2022 at 16:46 PM
#5 summed it up well. Come on number #4, what are you whispering about?
Nairn's Bairn
#7 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 17 Jan 2022 at 17:25 PM
The community shop and commercial units proposed here are a great idea, and will help make the area sustainable.

Full-time residents, who will use the local shop right through the winter, who will join that litter pickup, who will notice that the elderly man in no. 6 is struggling with his garden, who fix the creels that make such great Instagram backgrounds, who will give you a lift into town if you need it, are what gives a place life.

I'm glad to see a large-scale Housing Association project like this happening in a rural area. Kudos to everyone involved who's going to make it happen.
Permeable Paving
#8 Posted by Permeable Paving on 18 Jan 2022 at 08:37 AM
I'm sure the housing will be to Rural Design's usual high standard but no amount of clipart cyclists can hide the fact that the public realm is a sea of surface parking. Just as well no one in the alternative universe that's been illustrated owns a car!

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