The Comhairle has rejected claims that it is placing the future of an award-winning social enterprise on Barra “under threat” by “insisting on demolishing its premises”.
Bùth Bharraigh, a local producer co-operative, visitor information provider and community hub in Castlebay, had made the claims over the authority’s plans in a statement issued ahead of a key Comhairle committee meeting at which a decision on the future of the premises was due to be made.
They claimed that the organisation was “under orders” from the authoirty to quit its current location – the former Co-op building close to ferry terminal in Castlebay – and to move to what it says is an unsuitable, smaller and more expensive alternative site, half a mile away from its current more prominent location.
But in a statement the Comhairle said that Bùth Bharraigh knew of the proposed demolition plan in 2013, prior to occupying the building, and that the organisaiton’s occupation of the building “was always intended to be of a temporary nature”.
Now the building is earmarked for demolition as part of a major programme of regeneration in the village.
The Comhairle’s statement said: “The proposed demolition of the property was included in the Comhairle’s successful ‘South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme’ bid to the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund in 2013, reflecting the wishes of the local community.
“The successful bid delivered investment of up to £2m in Barra with two new business units in Castlebay, the regeneration of the Vatersay Hall, and included the demolition of the former Co-op store together with funding for environmental improvements, the nature of these to be agreed by the community in due course.
“The Comhairle has continued to support Bùth Bharraigh with alternative premises including specialist advisory support.”
However, Bùth Bharraigh Director, Sarah Maclean, said: “The Comhairle should be working with us to get the best outcome for Barra and our business.
“They will be putting producers’ takings and jobs at risk if they force us to move.”
Councillors have now backed a recommendation - in private - that the demolition of the premises should proceed, however that decision needs to be ratified at a meeting of the full council this Wednesday (December 11th).
A petition to save the Bùth Bharraigh enterprise at its present location has been started and aims to gain 2,500 supporters to crank up the pressure on the Comhairle to rethink its decision on the matter.
To support the petition go to: www.change.org and search for ‘Save Bùth Bharraigh, Isle of Barra’.