£200k tenancy fuels Harris croft debate

A second croft tenancy in the West Harris township of Seilebost has been put on the market with a price tag of “over £200,000”.

By Brian Wilson
Thursday, 19th August 2021, 8:33 am
West Harris: A view with a price. But what of the wider issues surrounding a rise in property values?
West Harris: A view with a price. But what of the wider issues surrounding a rise in property values?

This latest dramatic example of price inflation has fuelled debate about the need for crofting reform if the system is to survive the influx of money which is forcing local people out of the market for both crofts and housing.

Number 5 Seilebost is being marketed by the Stornoway estage agent, MacIver and Teale, who describe it as “occupying an outstandingly beautiful location in southwest Harris (which) will be of immediate interest to those who are searching to put down roots in the Outer Hebrides.

“Stretching from the white sands of the beach into the hills above and with views across the sands of Luskentyre to the island of Taransay, this bare land croft is undoubtedly in a world class scenic location”.

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The post on the estate agent’s web-site does point out: “The croft extends to approximately nine hectares and assignation of the croft tenancy is subject to Crofting Commission approval”.

Last October, the neighbouring croft was also offered at “over £200,000” and is understood to have fetched a considerably higher offer from a couple who have subsequently submitted a planning application to create a sound healing centre on it.

However, number 4 Seilebost remains “under offer” as the Crofting Commission has not yet received or considered an application from the prospective tenants, Malcolm and Lesley Gough, who also breed miniature Hereford cattle in Rutland.

Mr Gough is listed on the Complementary Medicine Association web-site as a “sound and gong therapy practitioner offering SoundBaths, Gong Baths, SoundScapes and Drum Circles, for groups and 1-2-1, in a highly equipped, purpose-built Sound Studio here at Chater Valley Farm”.

Seilebost lies within the West Harris Trust estate which has been under community ownership since 2010 and has worked effectively to provide local housing and create employment. However, crofting regulation is outside its remit.

In a statement, they said: “The Trust remains concerned that the ever increasing prices being realised for crofts and houses makes it very difficult for young people to remain in the community”.

The Crofters Commisison register shows that the tenant of 5 Seilebost is Donald Angus MacKinnon who lives in New Tolsta, Lewis, while the tenant of 4 Seilebost is Finlay MacKinnon.

Meanwhile, the booming market in croft tenancies has – perhaps inevitably – attracted scamsters.

The Commisson warned on Wednesday: "We have recently been made aware of a scam where an individual claiming to be a landlord of a croft is offering the tenancy of this non-existent croft to unsuspecting victims.

"If you are looking at becoming a crofter check both the Register of Crofts to verify that the details of the croft you are interested in are correct”.

"The Commission was alerted by an individual who made contact to check the status of a croft which turned out not to exist.