Planning new life for old school block

The South Harris community are hoping plans to breathe new life into the ‘old block’ of Leverhulme Memorial School can be brought to fruition.

Following a packed-out meeting last night (Tuesday) the Leverhulme Memorial School Steering Group (LMS) has reported that a large majority of those who attended support their plans for a new community facility in Leverburgh, based in the old block of the school.

The steering group took shape last October following concerns that Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (CnES) were looking to demolish the ‘old block’ of the primary school and refurbish the other school building.

The Comhairle is currently looking at options as to what should be done with the old block, however it is believed the preferred option is for demolition, while the steering group believes it could be a fantastic community facility.

CnES have estimated that the costs of demolition and clearance of the site would be in the region of £400,000, and it has been pointed out that the retention of the building has the potential to benefit the people of South Harris and save the public purse demolition costs.

Months of research, visiting other facilities and speaking to locals has resulted in a comprehensive plan outlining several possible uses for the old block.

Several income-generating ideas have been outlined, including a tea-room, laundrette facility and gym, as well as these it is also considered that the building – built by Lord Leverhulme himself – would be a fantastic home for the area to have its own historical society.

In addition to providing new facilities and preserving the island’s rich history and culture, it is hoped that such a facility would have also have many educational benefits.

Sixty-four out of 73 people attending the meeting showed their support to take these ideas forward.

LMS Steering Group Chairman, Angus MacLeod said: “The turnout at our meeting last night was an indicator as to the level of interest that our plans have generated.

“The fact that the majority of those in attendance pledged their support for this proposal now gives us the go-ahead we were looking for, in order to approach the council with regard to the acquisition of the old block.

“We firmly believe that what we are proposing will bring both social and economic benefits to our community.

“We are looking to offer a variety of new services, create educational opportunities and contribute to the preservation of our heritage for generations to come.”

Now that the community have been brought up to date with the plans the next step is to present them to the Comhairle with a viable business plan by February 18th.