Celebrations on Skye thanks to unique partnership

AFTER considerable negative press regarding the congestion on Skye, it is a huge cause for celebration that the funding has now been reached, the partnership put in place and an imminent start announced on the much-needed car park facilities at the hugely popular Fairy Pools on the island.  In an unprecedented collaboration between two charities, construction on this the long-awaited congestion solution is due to commence in the Spring this year with car parking facilities for over 100 cars and around 20 mini-buses being completed by the end of the summer.

The news was extremely well received by Kate Forbes MSP, who last year hosted a successful visit to the island from Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and who herself has been pivotal in orchestrating this project from the start.   “I cannot over emphasis how relieved I am that we have secured the funding for the Fairy Pools “, commented Kate Forbes MSP.

“A lot of hard work by community representatives, OATS, local councillers and myself has gone into this project.  The key is making quick and smooth progress in tendering, constructing and then opening the car park to visitors.

“The most important people are local residents, whose lives have been disrupted by crazy parking on the side of the road and thoughtless littering.  I hope that a brand new car park, toilets and amenities will resolve that.

“I would like to see this model of collaboration between OATS and the community replicated for other communities. In one sense, communities have never been so empowered by legislation or access to funding but they need support in terms of expertise, effort and advice.  Tourists will continue to visit hotspots in the Highlands and so we need a model that works – this could be it.”

The Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA) who are taking ownership of the car park site from Forestry Commission Scotland under Community Asset Transfer, are working in partnership with the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) who will build, manage and maintain the facility on their behalf.  Commenting on this unique partnership, Julie Burnett, Secretary & Treasurer for the Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA) explained, “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Outdoor Access Trust Scotland for Scotland on this project which will improve parking at the Fairy Pools as well as providing toilet facilities and visitor information.

MCHA directors and OATS trustees at the Fairy Pools

The expertise of OATS together with the local knowledge of MCHA will lead to a long-term relationship that can only benefit both the Minginish community and the natural environment around the Fairy Pools.  This partnership will provide the opportunity to make a real difference to residents and businesses by reducing congestion on the single-track road leading to the Fairy Pools and Glen Brittle.  At the same time, visitors to the Fairy Pools will enjoy improved and safer facilities when visiting this beautiful area.”

With funding now secured from the Highland Council, Rural Infrastructure Fund, Skye LEADER and HIE, this £600K partner project will also benefit the wider community with local employment being boosted through the creation of new jobs and income from the car parking being re-invested to both benefit the Minginish community as well as local access projects to protect the environment in this unique location.

Ian Moffett, Chairman of OATS enthused about the project, “This unique partnership between MCHA and OATS will enable a solution that will be of benefit to everyone involved.  Visitors will benefit from much improved facilities, congestion near the Fairy Pools site will be a thing of the past plus income generated from the facilities will be ploughed back into the local Minginish area.

We very much hope others will look at this innovative approach of two charities working in a symbiotic relationship and perhaps apply a comparable template to similarly challenged sites in the Highlands and Islands.”

With visitor numbers to the Fairy Pools well in excess of 100,000 per year, the road and area around the attraction has struggled to cope, with vehicles parked on verges causing severe obstruction, litter issues, a lack of toilet facilities and of course the erosion on the path leading to this magical site.

This unique partnership solution will go a long way towards solving the congestion problems at the Fairy Pools, enabling visitors and residents alike to have an amicable experience of the distinctive surroundings and enjoy everything Skye has to offer.