The first community fuel service using an above-ground fuel storage tank in Scotland is currently under construction in the Outer Hebrides.
Co-chomunn na Pàirc (Pairc Community Co-operative) which runs the Ravenspoint Centre at Kershader on behalf of the community of South Lochs received funding from the Big Lottery Fund, the Muaitheabhal Trust, and a £25,000 grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to help establish the fuel service in this fragile rural area.
Residents will now be able to enjoy access to 24 hour unleaded petrol and diesel and avoid having to travel a 40 mile plus return trip to the nearest filling station.
A former school building dating back to the 19th century, the social enterprise now comprises a community shop, cafe, hostel, and visitor attractions.
HIE’s Head of Strengthening Communities in the Outer Hebrides, Jane Macintosh, said: “HIE has been working closely with the social enterprise for over six years now and it is great to see the new fuel pump being installed which will complement existing activities and help support the economic growth of the South Lochs area.
“Co-chomunn na Pàirc has made an enormous effort to develop a range of services for the community and we look forward to seeing the pump operational. As the first of its kind, HIE will be monitoring the effectiveness of above-ground installations as a viable means of meeting the fuel supply needs of remote rural areas.”
John Randall, Chairman of the Co-chomunn na Pàirc, said: “Once the pump is up and running, it will make a tremendous difference to our community and greatly enhance our facilities at Ravenspoint. It will save many wasted journeys and indeed has the potential to transform the way people view the idea of living in or visiting South Lochs.”
Although the storage of both petrol and diesel in above-ground tanks is the first of its kind for a community retailer in Scotland, the practice is established elsewhere in the UK for commercial installations, and meets all relevant safety and environmental standards. This is a lower cost option than installing new underground tanks, which are also easier to maintain and eliminates the risk of underground fuel leakage.
Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, Maureen McGinn, said: “Our support for Co Chomunn Na Pairc through the two grants we have made in the last three years have allowed this rural community to acquire assets to become more sustainable. Over that period, we have invested half a million pounds of National Lottery funds to this group to reduce rural isolation for local people as well as improve local economic growth and funding for this petrol station is a key element.
“We know through our Growing Community Assets programme that when communities such as this are able to take an active part in their own development, both ambition and confidence increase. The Big Lottery Fund is delighted to fund Co Chomunn Na Pairc and believe that our investment will make a difference to this community for years to come.”
The Centre also houses a 14-bed hostel, exhibitions on Calum Kennedy and other local musicians, Patagonia, Whaling, the Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc local history museum, the Angus Macleod Archive, and Derek Cooper Collection.
Gaelic courses are run several weeks a year which take students from all over the world into the heart of a Gaelic-speaking community.
The Centre is also the headquarters of the Islands Book Trust and the new Hebridean Connections heritage project, and located immediately next door to the offices of the Pairc Trust and the Muaitheabhal Trust.