Reassurances about the future of the abattoir in Stornoway were given to councillors this week, after a report detailing the potential sale of the building went before the Comhairle’s Policy and Resources Committee.
The report, on the future use of the existing building and of abattoir facilities locally, was presented to councillors after the Comhairle secured more than £2m from the Scottish Government to redevelop the Newton area of the town, including a new Newton Enterprise Park, and after a local developer approached the Comhairle seeking to buy the site.
The developer proposed purchasing the abattoir site and leasing the building back to the Comhairle for a period of up to three years to enable the Comhairle to find a new site for a new facility.
But councillors sought confirmation that no sale would progress until plans and finance for a new facility were in place.
Loch a Tuath councillor, Donald Crichton, highlighted the importance of the abattoir to local crofters, and said: “If we lose the abattoir we lose crofting.
“We should deter the sale of the site until we have developed options, and the alternatives are clear. Why should we sell this site and then pay rent? This should be deferred until we have concrete options for the future to consider.”
Ness and West Side councillor, Kenny John MacLeod, who welcomed news of the development plans for the Newton area, said: “This is putting the cart before the horse.
“The abattoir is a highly valued resource, and the cost for the Comhairle in providing the abattoir is insignificant but makes a significant contribution to local crofting. “
Cllr. Kenneth Macleod, who expressed surprise, shared by other members of the committee, that the item was on the agenda for the meeting: “No decision should be made until we have plans for another abattoir. We should look at options for building a new facility before we do anything else.
“We don’t want to be playing table-tennis with the issue for the next three years like we have with the issue of the mobile libraries.”
Committee Chair, Councillor Roddie MacKay, explained that the report contained no commitment to close the facility or to sell the site, saying: “There is no conclusion in this report, we don’t want to commit to anything just now, and we are not seeking to get rid of this provision.”
Comhairle officers also confirmed that the report was the start of consultations on the future of the service, and that talks were underway with the abattoir users group and local crofters.