Scottish Water may plug ‘speculation’ leaks

Redundant water tanks on tiny patches of land have become the latest source of property speculation in the islands, thanks to auctions conducted on behalf of Scottish Water.

By Brian Wilson
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 7:02 pm
The site at Mangersta which is "3.4 miles from the nearest school".
The site at Mangersta which is "3.4 miles from the nearest school".

Two tanks in the Uig area of Lewis were sold at auction last month – and are now being auctioned again by the anonymous owner with asking prices around treble what was paid to Scottish Water.

This week, in response to Gazette inquiries, Scottish Water insisted they are bound by Scottish Government policy to dispose of surplus assets but promised to explore measures to “reduce the potential for speculation”.

The two water tanks, on sites which were taken out of crofting land in the 1960s by the old Ross-shire County Council when water came to these villages, are situated in Mangersta and Timsgarry.

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The Timsgarry one was sold by SVA Auctions, who act on behalf of Scottish Water, for £8200 and is now being re-sold through Future Property Auctions with a guide price of £24,000.

The accompanying blurb says: “Perfect spot for caravan berth, small lodge or camping area in extremely high demand tourist location”.

A similar 209 square metre patch of land in Mangersta, which went last month for £11,000, is up for grabs at £27,000.

The text helpfully points out that it is “3.4 miles from the nearest school” and adds: “Excellent investment/ development opportunity on the stunning Isle of Lewis. Super sized parcel of land in roadside location offering potential for multiple uses”.

The Gazette this week asked Scottish Water if it did not feel any obligation to return these redundant sites, which are in the middle of crofting land, to the crofting villages which gave up the land in the first place.

They responded: “As a publicly-owned body, Scottish Water is obliged to follow Scottish Government guidelines for the disposal of surplus assets. In practice, these require us to dispose of land that we no longer need on the open market - and in many cases this is done via auction.

“Before the two water tanks in Uig were promoted for sale, Scottish Water notified a wide range of stakeholders including relevant council officials, councillors, community councils and neighbouring landowners. As no responses were received in these cases, we proceeded to auction as the most common disposal method.

“All stakeholders were then notified again and the details of the auction were provided to give them an opportunity to participate if they wished to do so, or to make other potentially interested parties aware. The lots were also advertised in the local press, online and at the sites themselves.

“Once an asset is sold, Scottish Water has no control over it and cannot influence its future. We will explore if there are measures we can take before sale to reduce the potential for speculation in these circumstances, while still complying with the guidelines that are in place.”

At the next SVA auction later this month, a former pumping station in Lochboisdale is up for grabs. The accompanying blurb promises that it is set in “a mix of beautiful beaches, breath-taking machair and hills and a stronghold for Gaelic culture”.

A site near Leverburgh was sold recently for £14,000.