A GROUND-BREAKING project to build a £3 million community-run “housing and care hub” for older people in a Sutherland town has taken a major leap forward.
The group behind the scheme, Lairg and District Community Initiative (LDCI) has been granted £210,000 from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) to purchase a site.
The ground earmarked for the project is in the centre of the village and was the former site of the Sutherland Arms Hotel, long since demolished.
LDCI group members were this week celebrating the award.
Chairman Steven Maclean said: “This is seriously good news for the people of Lairg – life changing for some. The land acquisition is fundamental to the delivery of our care and well being centre.”
And LDCI project manager Magda Macdonald said: “We are delighted that we have managed to secure the SLF funding to purchase the site and take our project a step closer to reality.
“This is a major stepping stone for us and possibly the most important one – but there is still a lot of work ahead of us.”
LDCI announced in May last year that it was working towards establishing some form of nursing home for elderly people in the area.
At the moment, Lairg residents cannot access residential care or even suitable housing in their home town but have to go outwith the district.
LDCI said at the time its project was innovative in that the planned facility would be community owned and operate as a social enterprise initiative.
It would also bring much needed jobs to the area, creating an estimated 12 new full-time equivalent posts.
Since making its plans public, LDCI has held talks with the community and NHS Highland and drawn up a feasibility study and business plan.
The group’s intention now is to build a “multi-purpose community hub” with homes for the elderly, a central space for shared meals and social events, a small fitness suite, treatment rooms available for everyone and space to provide community services.
Magda Macdonald said: “The development will not only allow us to care for our elderly and infirm locally – up to 22 residents – and provide 12 full-time equivalent jobs, but long term will build a resilient and vibrant community where inter-generational links are being maintained and where people are not afraid they will be separated from family as they grow old and their health deteriorates.”
She added: “Over the next year we are planning to liaise with various partners, including NHS Highland and other care providers, the housing associations, third sector organisations, Highland Council and various funders.
“Hopefully by the end of next year we will have partnership agreements in place as well as further funding. We will keep the community fully informed and engaged as we move towards a planning application. We are aiming to complete our project within the next three years but much will depend on third party involvement in what is quite a complex project.”
It is hoped the building costs will be largely financed by the Big Lottery and other funders.
Announcing the SLF funding, chairman John Watt, said: “I am delighted that older people in some of the most fragile communities will benefit from this investment.”
Ailsa Raeburn, head of community assets for HIE, said: “The proposed facilities in Lairg will address a real need within the community to provide excellent care services for the elderly and I look forward to seeing these plans come to fruition.”