Urras Oighreachd Charlabhaigh (Carloway Estate Trust)
Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh (Carloway Estate Trust) is a community land owner on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Carloway Estate covers 11,500 acres on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, with over 200 crofts spread across the townships of Callanish, Breasclete, Tolsta Chaolais, Doune Carloway, Kirivick, Knock Carloway and a number of outlying islands. The current population of the estate is approximately 550 of which about 60% are Gaelic speaking. There is one school on the estate, Bun-sgoil Bhreascleit, which provides Gaelic medium pre-school education and Gaelic Medium primary education. There is a high level of volunteering amongst the population with a number of community groups and clubs active in the area.
An initial steering group was formed in July 2012 to explore the viability of a community buyout of Carloway Estate from a landowner willing to sell. Funds were raised to cover the costs of feasibility studies, summaries of which were circulated to every household in the community prior to public consultations and ballot papers being issued. At a public meeting to discuss the proposed buyout it was unanimously agreed that all persons 16 or over on the electoral roll be balloted as to their preferred option. This was the first ballot on community ownership in Scotland which gave 16 and 17 year olds a vote. There was a high (67.6%) turnout and the community voted 75% in favour of pursuing community ownership.
Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh became a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status in May 2014. The aims of the trust are:
- To advance community development and advance the regeneration of the area through the management of community lands and associated assets for the benefit of the community and the public in general.
- To advance environmental protection or improvement including preservation, sustainable development and conservation of the natural environment, the maintenance, improvement or provision of environmental amenities for the community and/or the preservation of buildings or sites of architectural, historic or other importance to the community.
Funding applications to purchase the estate were granted by The Scottish Land Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Community Capital Grant Fund totalling £276,464. This was to cover the agreed purchase price, legal conveyancing, estate mapping and the employment of a Development Officer for a two year period.
The estate was transferred to community ownership on the 1st of May 2015. The first election of directors was held in the summer of 2015. 12 directors sit on the board of Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh. The Trust currently employs three members of staff. In addition to managing the estate, Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh is involved in developing projects which are aimed at the economic and social regeneration of the community of Carloway estate.