Report on the Trust Meeting of August 26th, 2019

The following is a summary of the discussion which took place during the August meeting of the Stornoway Trust.

Trustees joined in paying tribute to the late Fiona Cowan, who passed away on 21st August. Ms Cowan had been a member of the Trust from 2006, until 2012, the first woman to be elected, and contributed much during her term of office. She continued to be a supportive friend of the Trust after her period of trusteeship had concluded, until ill health sadly prevented her from visiting the Estate Office.

The Factor was asked to convey the condolences of trustees and staff to her family at this difficult time.

LWP Report

The LWP report, presented by David Morrison, provided an update on a number of issues, including:

  • Most of the consultation responses have been received and there will be some follow-up meetings;
  • Preparations are underway for the 19a Land Court hearing, scheduled to begin on 22 October.
  • EDF attended a meeting in Stornoway on 25 July of the proposed consortium to examine the feasibility of local hydrogen production.

Mr Morrison reported that the timetable for the CfD auction has been extended by approximately two weeks but this is not expected to delay the announcement.

Goathill Farm

Trustees noted that the process of conveying ownership of the strip of ground back to the Trust is progressing with HHP’s Solicitors now involved in the matter.

Golf Club Lease

The Chairman, having previously shared with Trustees an email from the Club Captain informing him that a Solicitor’s letter, outlining the Club’s response to the draft lease, had been sent to the Estate Office, informed the meeting that the said correspondence had not been forthcoming.

Trustees expressed their dissatisfaction over the Club’s handling of the matter and further discussed reports of adverse and ill-informed comments on social media.  Perceived to have emanated from sources within the Club, and regarded to be attempts to discredit the Trust, Trustees asked that such behaviour be monitored and appropriate action taken to address such posts if required.

Point & Sandwick Development Trust (PSDT)Joint Interim Project

Trustees noted that a meeting between the respective Trust members is still to be arranged and decided that the balance of this year’s fund, amounting to £15k, should be rolled over into next year.

HIE (Creed Park) and Arnish

Trustees noted that the finalisation of the lease arrangements for the new tenants at Creed Park is in hand.

Trustees then discussed the lack of progress on the Arnish lease and expressed frustration at the continued lack of movement on this matter.

Melbost & Branahuie Crofters v HIAL

Trustees noted that while this matter is still progressing via the Court of Session, it is understood that parties are in discussion towards reaching a more amicable settlement.

In the meantime, the Factor is in correspondence with interested parties with regard to the vacant shares which have largely occurred on account of croft land being subsequently removed from crofting tenure as a result of the MOD occupation of the affected crofts.

Monthly Progress on Parks for People Project – Lews Castle Grounds Regeneration

  1. Trustees noted the report prepared by the Project Officer. Ms Bagrie updated the Trustees on progress with the Woodlands Decking. A price is awaited by the contractor for treated timber for the wooden joists and they hope to be able to confirm cost and timetable later in the week. Although this has caused a delay the effect should be minimal.
  2. The Chair stated that the Project Board had requested that financial summaries were to be presented to every Board meeting in order to keep members abreast of ongoing project costs.
  3. Trustees noted that Ms Riona McMorrow of the Heritage Fund will be here in early September and that the project monitor will be visiting the site later in the month.

Trustees discussed the ongoing issues with the Castle Green. The Factor explained that it was now clear that there were a number of old drains discharging into the Green, including ones believed to be from the Seaforth Lodge era. The proposed Bastion Wall drainage should solve some of this problem but further work will be required to capture all newly-exposed outlets from the Castle.

Whilst he shared the Trustees frustration he advised that the critical issue now was to ensure that a solution was found.

Scottish Water – Back Tolsta Water Main

Trustees were pleased to note that Scottish Water have resolved the outstanding issues with the tenants and are now in a position progress the notification and consents process with the Trust.

50b Applications

Trustees noted that the Trust’s Solicitors have sought to recoup, at the Trust’s behest, the legal expenses incurred at the recent Land Court Hearings.  Given that Appeals lodged to the Court challenging the Crofting Commission decision to refuse the four 50B Applications, submitted on behalf of the four crofting townships, were deemed to be against the best interests of the wider crofting community, the Trust felt it necessary to participate in the support of the Commission’s findings.

Trustees were disappointed to learn that the Land Court’s decision in support of the Commission refusals is likely to be further challenged on behalf of the Applicants in the Court of Session.  Of concern to the Trustees is their apparent determination to incur significant costs at the community’s expense, on a mission which, should they succeed, endangers the future development of additional wind generation across the Stornoway Trust Estate, and thereby exposing the Trust’s own community equity aspirations to unwarranted risk.

Water Extraction Project:  Loch Mor a Chrotaich, Arnish Moor

Trustees noted that the first extraction of water from the loch has been transported to the mainland for canning.  The company is now progressing a marketing exercise to help establish the product, which will hopefully determine its commercial viability.

Aquatera Ltd

Trustees reviewed a notification of revision received from Aquatera together with the Factor’s response to the original notification.

Cuddy Point

Trustees noted that now that the holiday period is over, a further meeting, which will hopefully allow participation with a wider users group, is to be convened

Community Land Week

The Factor updated Trustees on the events organised for Community Land Week.  The meeting with the Grazing Committees had been well attended and the discussions had been productive. Those attending were supportive of additional meetings being held over the winter months.

REPORTS

Renewables

i) OFGEM Consultation Response: Transmission link to Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

Trustees noted a copy of a letter submitted on the Trust’s behalf by the Factor in response to the consultation by OFGEM on SHEPD’s DSO recommendation.

ii) Community Windfarm ConsortiumThe Factor informed Trustees that the scheduled meeting had been postponed and that he would update Trustees of progress once the rescheduled meeting had taken place.

General Estate Matter

Salt Barn

The Factor informed Trustees now that key members of staff in the Engineering Section of CnES had returned to work he expected the matter to progress.

Litter in the Castle Grounds

Trustees were aware that several complaints have been received from the public in regards to the Trust’s decision not to replace the litter and dog bins from the Castle Grounds.  Trustees were pleased to note that, in fact, there was support for the initiative of taking personal responsibility, with reports of people helping to collect litter on a voluntary basis, as well as positive comments.

They did not wish to change the decision but wished to ensure that the phased withdrawal of the bins was implemented properly.  They also highlighted that the planned education initiative needed to be accelerated.  To this end they instructed that staff should monitor continued litter collection and provision of bins throughout the Grounds.

Nursery Report

Trustees noted a report prepared by Jonathan Torrance, Nursery Supervisor. The main points were:

  • Changes in personnel, with the appointment of Jack and David as Head Gardener and Gardener, respectively; they are based at the Nursery, which has been a great way of enhancing communication between nursery and grounds staff.
  • The shared vision for the nursery is as a community resource, as well as a commercial venture.
  • The Nursery has been supplying the Woodlands Centre with plants, such as basil and samphire, for use in their kitchen.
  • The public engagement day was a huge success, and the Nursery Supervisor and team found the level of interest to be a great encouragement.

Gardener’s Report

Trustees noted reports for July and August prepared by Jack Pocock, Head Gardener. The main points were:

  • The garden team has been clearing salmonberry from the core area; it’s hoped that the cleared areas can be replanted in spring and that any subsequent regrowth can be spot-treated with herbicide.
  • It is planned to use a lot of mulch – of which there is a plentiful supply to hand in the Castle Grounds.
  • Most grassy areas are going to be cut repeatedly this season in order to tidy them up – eg in front of the Matheson monument, Cuddy Point.
  • Currently, the emphasis is on clearing and maintenance, with most planting being held off until the spring. Some planters have been placed strategically in order to provide a splash of colour in the meantime.
  • Planned areas include: rockery, stumpery, fuchsia collection, sedum bed, pinery, poppy bed.
  • Jack is awaiting a response from the College on training.

Woodlands Centre

Trustees noted that Craig Morgan, Manager, is leaving his post after nearly 13 years at the Woodlands Centre.  He started work as a Saturday boy, earning promotion over the years to eventually becoming Manager.  We wish him well on his move to the mainland.

Subgroups

Enterprise

Trustees noted that two meetings of the Enterprise Subgroup had taken place: on 25 June and 18 July 2019, for which minutes had previously been circulated.

Archive

Trustees noted that the Archive Subgroup met on 27 June 2019 and that a number of action points arising therefrom are being processed by the Group.

APPLICATIONS FOR TITLE IN TERMS OF THE CROFTING REFORM (SCOTLAND) ACT 2010

Trustees noted that four applications for decrofting in order to take Title, in terms of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, have been submitted.

APPLICATIONS FOR ASSIGNATION OF A CROFT TENANCY

Trustees supported six applications to assign the tenancy of a croft.

Trustees noted that the Crofting Commission had approved nine applications to assign tenancy of a croft.

NOTIFICATION OF APPLICATIONS FOR TENANCY BY EXECUTRIES TO CROFTING COMMISSION

Trustees noted that two notifications had been received.

APPLICATION TO SUBLET TENANCY OF CROFT

Trustees approved one application to sublet tenancy.

Trustees noted that four applications to sublet tenancy of croft have been granted by the Crofting Commission.

Trustees noted that the Crofting Commission has refused one application to sublet tenancy.

APPLICATIONS FOR FEUS/ TRANSFER OF TENANCIES OF ALLOTMENTS/AMENITY GROUND

Trustees discussed three cases.

APPLICATIONS FOR USE OF LEWS CASTLE POLICIES

None

Applications for Homologation

Trustees approved one request.

NOTIFICATIONS OF CROFT REGISTRATION

Trustees noted that intimations have been received confirming that ten tenants have applied to register the crofts listed on the Crofting Register held by the Register of Scotland.

APPLICATION FOR A WAYLEAVE

Trustees homologated the Factor’s action in approving four wayleaves.

CORRESPONDENCE

There were five items of correspondence requiring the trustees’ attention.

PLANS SUBMITTED

Trustees noted that five notices have been served on the Trust in terms of local planning legislation.

DOCUMENTS FOR SIGNATURE

Trustees were invited to homologatethe signature of nine documents.

Governance

Trustees agreed it appropriate to review governance procedures of the Trust in order, where necessary, to enable the Trust to effectively fulfil its varied responsibilities in a manner compatible with present day good governance standards.  To commence the process, it was agreed that a meeting be convened to allow consideration of the appropriateness of the long established Standing Orders, to determine the present day capacity and relevance of the provisions therein.