Land at the Old Man of Storr could be purchased by the Staffin Community Trust (SCT), if approval is given from the Highland Council.
SCT will find out within the next fortnight if its bid to buy roadside ground at the Storr will be approved by the Council.
Part of the SCT's plans include building a new off-road car park, public toilets and interpretation/local business information at the site.
Local residents have voiced concerns about road safety and sanitation at the site for some time as visitor numbers have soared in recent years.
There were 150,000 visitors to the Storr last year. Back in 2005, only 37,000 visitors were recorded.
SCT submitted an Asset Transfer Request (ATR) to the council in March – the first in the Highlands under new Community Empowerment legislation, which became law in January – and will find out if it has been accepted by Wednesday, September 6.
A fee for using the car park would be charged, a proposal which was supported by local residents. Almost 86% of respondents to a major consultation in Staffin supported SCT’s direct involvement at the site.
The council’s planning, development and infrastructure committee agreed in Inverness last November to set aside £400,000 of development funding for car park improvements at the site. In a report to councilors, SCT’s project was described as “exciting” and had “the potential to deliver significantly” on the authority’s priorities.
Committee members heard of the dangers of widespread verge parking for drivers and pedestrians and that the £400,000 would help SCT deliver the development, including urgently needed public toilets. This encouraged SCT to develop its site plan. The local authority has stated it has no intention of providing toilets.
If the ATR is granted, SCT will seek match funding from a variety of sources to deliver the proposed site capital works, which are currently estimated at up to £900,000. Following the SCT community consultation in January 2016, the consultant team carried out an options appraisal on the 82-hectare site, which includes a felled commercial forest and was purchased by the local authority in the mid-1990s.
SCT is grateful to have received funding from the council’s Eilean a’ Cheò’s Ward Discretionary Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Land Fund for the Storr Project options appraisal and business plan. It has also received excellent support and guidance from HIE’s community assets team and the Community Ownership Support Service.
Jen Shanks, Staffin Community Council Chairwoman, said it was in full support of the development. “The issue of parking and road safety at the Storr has long been a concern for the people of Staffin,” she said. “A sensitively designed larger main car park would significantly improve the current dangerous situation. Building toilets is vital to ensure one of our most valued tourist attractions remains as such. Furthermore, the inclusion of an information/interpretation shelter at the site, which would entice visitors further north, would be greatly welcomed by the community and provide an economic boost to the area."