Staffin Harbour Project on right road as enabling works progress

THE STAFFIN Harbour Project has taken a major step forward, as the upgrade of the slip road nears completion.

Kensaleyre-based contractor Eyre Plant has worked on the access road since January 31 as part of the approved Enabling Works with extensive widening, verges strengthened, additional passing places created and the surface tarred its entire 1.1 mile length.

Safety on the vital route has also been improved as rock was removed from the blind bend at the old unofficial dumping spot past Cairn Robin and a new crash barrier erected, while new passing place signs have also been installed.

It comes as local MSP Kate Forbes met local members of the project steering group last Friday at the current Staffin slip to see the work for herself and discuss the capital funding challenges faced by Staffin Community Trust (SCT) in delivering the main harbour development.

The community-led project has an estimated price tag of £4.2million in what would be the biggest single infrastructure investment in Staffin to date.

Kate Forbes MSP and the Staffin Harbour Steering Group.

The Scottish Government's Fisheries Harbours Assistance awarded £900,000 to SCT which has paid for the road upgrade plus the work to deliver electrical and water connections to the harbour area, which are also being progressed, and new pontoons.

SCT had previously secured a £969,000 Regeneration Capital Grant Fund and Scottish Land Fund support via the Scottish Government, but needs to raise at least £1.5million to ensure the capital works will be fully funded. Local aquaculture company Organic Sea Harvest has pledged to support the project via its Community Benefit Scheme and SCT is investigating other sources of funding including new pots being announced by the UK Government.

SCT director and steering group member Calum MacDonald said: “We were delighted to welcome Kate Forbes to Staffin and show her the first-rate job carried out by Eyre Plant over the last three months. The community is delighted at the progress to date and we have a well-supported project with excellent economic and social benefits for Staffin and Skye.

“We are grateful to the support from our grant funders and believe this is an attractive project for other capital funders to get behind. Our community will be making that case very strongly to our elected representatives and authorities.”

SCT has secured all the planning permissions required for the enabling works, main harbour development and extraction of material from Lealt. It is anticipated that a full marine licence will be approved imminently by Marine Scotland.

Negotiations about the purchase of the harbour area are continuing with the respective owners, including Highland Council, the Scottish Ministers and Crown Estate. Once these are successfully concluded SCT hopes to be in a position later this year to issue the tender for the main harbour development.

Upgrading Staffin Harbour been a key priority of the community for some time as it lacks safe, sheltered berths and basic amenities such as water, power and storage facilities and is currently unsuitable for berthing.

A new breakwater will create a sheltered haven that can be used by local and visiting boats, all year round. The new slipway will be longer and wider allowing boats to operate at any state of the tide, and make it much safer for vehicles to access, while the existing slipway will remain in place.

The pontoons will provide local boats with safe berths that can be used 12 months of the year, and opportunities for visiting leisure craft to tie up for the night.

The pontoons will also make it easier for boat trip operators giving visitors the opportunity to discover the coastline and abundant wildlife of the area. When the development is complete it will be managed by a part-time harbour manager.

Two vehicles can now pass each other at the blind bend.