Despite the rain there was a sunshine atmosphere at Ravenspoint, South Lochs, on Tuesday (October 22nd) with the official opening of the premises’ new fuel station.
It marked a historic day for the area, as the first petrol pump ever in South Lochs was declared open by Western Isles MSP Dr Alasdair Allan.
Dr Allan said: “I think this is a huge step forward for this part of Lewis – before this people have had to make a 50mile round trip for fuel.
“But if we want people to live in a place like this, we have to offer basic facilities and the fact that this has been organised by the community, for the community, is I think a real breakthrough.”
The £300,000 Ravenspoint Fuel Service Project has been completed by Co-Chomunn na Pairc (Pairc Community Co-operative), which has taken heed the desires of the community expressed through surveys and questionnaires.
Co-Chomunn Chair, John Randall, expanded: “First and foremost this service has been put in place to meet the needs expressed by the community. It really is opening up an opportunity for a different way of life, and how people will view living in South Lochs.”
Mr Randall continued: “This is a green project also – a lot of people were wasting fuel just to travel to get fuel, so this will certainly reduce those carbon footprints. The community has been really supportive and we are extremely grateful. The acid test now is that people will use the facility.”
But with the pumps operational from last week, the new fuel station has proved popular, with use during Ravenspoint shop hours, as well as over the weekend with the new facility offers card payment at the pump.
A welcome knock-on effect is a rise in shop takings over the past week – and Ravenspoint now opens at 8am week-days to help accommodate community needs, as well as offering a new range of take-away sandwiches, teas and coffees.
Alongside Co-Chomunn monies, funding for the new facility came from the Big Lottery Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust.
Trust Manager Helen Sandison said: “This is the first award the Trust has delivered and it’s great to see it up and running. This is a great facility for the community, but it also means stability for Ravenspoint and the shop.
“The Trust is about enabling local groups to undertake projects like this without relying on public services or funding, and we’re delighted to be funding such a venture.”
Determined to keep prices competitive, the fuel station is supplied by Highland Fuels – and not only a first in South Lochs, it is also a first in Scotland, being the first retail filling station with above ground storage tanks.
Jim Suff, of company SuperVault MH, who supplied the tank and petrol pump equipment, said at the opening: “It’s brilliant to see this in action, it’s a big thing for us. “I’d never been to the islands before, but I’ve been here four times now in as many months. I can see what a great difference it will make to the community. It’s safe, environmentally sound, but the most important thing is the community will benefit and we’re pleased to be a part of that.”