The Highland Council has rejected a request to transfer land at the Storr to the Staffin Community Trust.
Staffin Community Trust proposed to use the land to create a car park and public toilets.
The council said the current plan would leave it with the burden of funding maintenance of surrounding land.
Despite having refused the Trust’s Asset Transfer Request in its current form, the Council remain optimistic that a partnership approach can still deliver the substantial improvements required at the site and have extended an invitation to continue dialogue with the Trust towards a solution.
Eilean a' Cheò Ward Members Councillors Finlayson, Gordon, MacDonald and MacLeod have backed the decision taken by the Council’s Asset Management Project Board on the 5th September.
Speaking on behalf of the Ward Members, Chair, John Gordon said: “We are supportive of projects that help improve much needed infrastructure, for the benefit of local communities and improved visitor management. In relation to the specific request at the Storr, however, Member support would require guarantees that this is delivered through a mechanism that does not separate any Council capital investment and revenue generation from the responsibility of the management and maintenance of the Council owned site in its entirety. Members would also require that it protects the wider public benefit and interest in perpetuity and protects the Council’s financial interests.”
Members hope that a solution can be found that protects and enhances the natural heritage assets at this nationally important site while supporting economic benefits for the Ward and beyond.
The council stated their reasons for the refusal included: "The proposed disaggregation of the car park from the remainder of the site would separate the revenue generating potential of the site from the burden of management and maintenance. The lack of reinvestment in the wider site would be detrimental to the integrated management of the site for wider, sustainable public benefit. The proposal would therefore have a negative impact upon the ability of the Council to deliver its functions."
The statement continued: "The request requires the transfer of £400k of capital budget from The Highland Council to Staffin Community Trust. There is no allocation of capital budget specifically to this site for visitor management within the Council's confirmed capital programme for the 2017/18 financial year. With reference to the requirement in the conditions that no economic development burden or clawback is attached to the transfer, a contribution of £400,000 capital funding from the Council would not be prudent without clearly agreed contractual outcomes and confirmed match funding as it is our opinion that this fails to protect the public interest in perpetuity. Transferring without an economic development burden or similar contractual condition would also not be prudent as there would be no arrangement for the Council to be able to either recover the property if it is not being used for the intended purpose or to recover any increase in value should the use change."
A further reason was stated as: "The request includes the areas of ground which currently form the road side layby with the intention that it will be used for coach parking with the Trust imposing parking charges. The layby currently forms part of the adopted public road and this proposal would require the layby to be stopped up and cease to be part of the adopted highway. Based on the professional advice from roads engineers it would not be acceptable to the Council for road safety and management reasons for the layby to be included in any sale or for this area to be stopped up. There is a requirement that within the land requested the sporting rights are transferred at no cost. This is not possible for the Council to approve as they are held by Lord MacDonald under a Sporting Lease by the Secretary of State for Scotland."
The full Decision Notice can be read here.