20th April 2009
Four new affordable homes which have a reduced carbon footprint have been unveiled at Ardgeal in the Cairngorms National Park by local MSP Fergus Ewing.
The homes for sale have been built on land sold to The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust by Forestry Commission Scotland as part of its National Forest Land Scheme.
Three of the four homes are already sold to local purchasers who otherwise would not have been able to afford to buy suitable homes in what is still an expensive local housing market.
Purchase prices have been kept low through a combination of the Trust using its Rural Housing Burden to take a 35% equity share in the properties, in return for a large discount, and substantial individual Rural Home Ownership Grants from the Scottish Government.
A combination of solar panels, wood burning stoves, exceptionally high levels of insulation and careful design ensures that the homes will have low running costs and a much reduced carbon footprint compared to most modern homes.
The Milehouse development was delivered by the Inverness-based Trust, a rural housing charity, in partnership with the Kincraig & Vicinity Community Council.
The project received financial contributions towards the cost of site acquisition and a project feasibility study from the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Highland Council.
RBS provided approximately half of the total project development finance with additional lending from the Highland Housing Alliance Charitable Trust. The remainder of the project costs were funded from the Trust’s revolving landbank fund originally funded by Highland Council.
Tom Hainey, CEO of the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said: “It has taken a lot of hard work to reach this point and we have learned an awful lot along the way.
“We will be taking time to learn those lessons before we proceed with Ardgeal phase 2 hopefully later this year.”
He added: “I look forward to working more closely with the Forestry Commission and Park Authority on a range of other innovative projects.”
Mr Ewing said: “This development is a model of co-operation between The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, the Forestry Commission as the landowner and the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
“The developers have praised the Park Authority for the way in which the planning process was handled. The vision of the local community was obtained and I understand that the development has proceeded without a single problem.”
Mr Ewing said that he hoped the next phase of the project could now proceed so more local people had a chance of affordable housing, adding that all the firms involved in the design and creation of the homes, including Grantown-based builders AW Laing, had done an excellent job.
CNPA board member Anne MacLean said: “We feel what we have done at Ardgeal could be replicated elsewhere in the National Park conjunction with the housing provider and the Forestry Commission and possibly also in other areas of Scotland too.
“This development shows how well the Park’s partnerships are working and delivering on the ground.”
Fiona Munro, the CNPA’s Housing Officer, said: “We want to learn from the project and see whether it can be repeated elsewhere in the National Park.”
Tree felling was necessary to carry out the Ardgeal project but a significant planting scheme for new trees will be implemented by the new owners within a year of occupation.