It could only have been Mull’s resident dynamo, Councillor Mary-Jean Devon, who issued a call to arms in support of a community led housing project that is now facing a very real threat of failure.
The Ulva School Community Association [USCA], which continues to produce much of the most forward looking, holistic, imaginative and downright practical thinking in long term sustainable community development, is, with support from the Mull and Iona Community Trust [MICT], building two affordable rental properties.
These and Ulva Ferry itself, are in the remote west coast of the Isle of Mull – and the function of the affordable homes is to tackle directly the long-term population decline in the area, which led to the threatened closure of the local school in 2010.
Councillor Devon says: ‘I am deeply impressed with the way the Ulva Ferry community galvanised themselves to fight a difficult but ultimately successful campaign to keep their lifeline school open. Their determination to address the housing issue in their area is a shining example of what a community can achieve with a lot of hard work and the support of a sympathetic landowner’.
Unusually for social housing, the Ulva Ferry houses are being built to a very high specification and Passive House standards, which will result in annual heating bill of less than £300 per year, per house.
This is a direct response to the community’s brief to combat the high level of fuel poverty in the area. Is is also in-keeping with the Scottish Government’s current priority to tackle the issue, as the number of households in fuel poverty nationally continues to rise year on year.
These houses will be an exemplar of the possibilities for high quality, low energy design and build in remote areas of rural Scotland.
The Housing Project has received financial support from Argyll & Bute Council, the Scottish Land Fund, the Quaker Housing Trust and the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, along with many individual donations from locals, visitors and those sympathetic to community led development.
The houses are now ready to be built but the current funding shortfall leaves the Project at a very real risk of failure.
Councillor Devon hopes enough funds can be raised from public support to meet the £45,000 still required: ‘It would be a crying shame if the 5 years’ tireless work by the Ulva Ferry community to get to this stage was all for nothing.
‘This is about so much more than two houses.
‘It is about ensuring the future sustainability of Ulva Ferry, keeping the school open and paving the way for new businesses and economic activity.
‘I would urge you – and here the feisty Councillor Devon is addressing each one of us individually – to consider making a donation, however small, to the Project which could see new families living at Ulva Ferry by the end of this year’.
Donations can be made to the Ulva Ferry Housing Project online here at Just Giving, or by post to: Mull and Iona Community Trust, An Roth, Craignure, Isle of Mull, PA65 6AY.
Note: The photograph above of children at the Ulva Ferry school bus – another successful part of the USCA project – is by Dr Sam Jones, a member of the Tobermory RNLI lifeboat volunteer crew.