Local management boosts tourism for west coast communities

Tarbert on the Isle of Harris is the latest community to work with The Crown Estate to develop marine tourism facilities through a local management agreement (LMA).

The agreement, along with a further two (with communities in Glendale, Skye, and Dornie in Wester Ross) means there will be a total of seven LMAs in Scotland as of next week, giving communities the opportunity to manage areas of foreshore and seabed while benefitting from the wider support from The Crown Estate.

Each community plans to use the agreements to provide marine leisure facilities for visitors and locals alike.

As part of these agreements, The Crown Estate provides community organisations with a package of support covering project management, business planning, sourcing funds and, in some cases, investment.

The agreements are growing in popularity with a further eight being considered by community organisations, largely development trusts in the north and west (map attached).

Indicative figures from the Development Trusts Association Scotland show a surge in membership in the north and west with numbers rising from 27 in 2008 to 63 in 2014.

LMAs have focused on the development of marine leisure facilities, offering a major boost to tourism along Scotland’s west coast.

Most recently, The Crown Estate’s and Comann na Mara’s LMA project at Lochmaddy on North Uist saw The Crown Estate invest £414,000 in berthings and visitor facilities. Over 350 yachts from across Europe visited over the summer and local businesses are reporting a boost in turnover.

The Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust’s new walkway, pontoon and mooring area at Ardminish Bay will be completed before Christmas and open next year. The project also benefited from £271,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund (a UK Government fund that equates to 50 per cent of Crown Estate gross revenues from marine assets).

Alan Laidlaw, Rural & Coastal Portfolio Manager, said: “Tourism and marine leisure is vital for local economies on the west coast so it’s encouraging that community groups are keen to source Crown Estate support for local projects – and we’re more than happy to provide it.

“We are committed to ensuring that Scotland’s coastal communities continue to benefit from our expertise and can realise their own ambitions and aspirations by managing assets locally.”

Gordon MacDonald of the Harris Development Trust said, “This Crown Estate agreement is a critical step forward in helping the community realise our long-term ambitions for marine leisure facilities that will help Harris tap into a growing tourism market and provide local community benefits.”

Other LMAs include plans for Tobermory Harbour expansion with a new pier, slipway, pontoons, boat servicing area and landing berth for cruise liners, which will increase capacity for visitors and enable new charter boat opportunities. The Crown Estate has already invested £320,000 in earlier developments at Tobermory.

Local organisations who own land also have the opportunity to take on ownership of neighbouring coastal areas under a ‘foreshore sales’ initiative which The Crown Estate is piloting to help local groups realise their ambitions for coastal developments.

These projects are the latest phase of The Crown Estate’s continuing work with Scotland’s coastal communities which includes a marine stewardship programme of around £100,000 each year supporting community initiatives and scientific research that promote sustainable management of marine and coastal assets. Over £10m has been invested in the stewardship programme across the UK in the last 15 years.