A community consultation begins today (Saturday, May 5) in Point over plans to redevelop the Old Knock School
Community group Urras Stòras an Rubha are looking for public feedback before they start applying for funding.
It is a second attempt to redevelop the building. The first set of plans failed to win cash from the Big Lottery’s Growing Communities Assets fund. The new plans are scaled down and have been costed at approximately £1million.
The project group hope to begin the funding applications in the summer, after feedback from the community consultation.
Under the draft plans, the two main parts of the building would be kept, with structural work done on the extensions – mainly the areas with flat roofs – which were added over the years.
The shop and cafe, which occupy one main part of the building, will be extended.
The shop will get more floor space and the gable end of the building will be turned into a wall of mainly glass, with a mezzanine level to create more seating and to make the best of the views over the Minch and down to the Harris hills.
The plans have been drawn up by Malcolm Crate of MJC Inspection and Design Ltd.
The plans also include dedicated museum and exhibition space for Comann Eachdraidh an Rubha and Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, plus offices for Point and Sandwick Trust, archive and storage facilities for the Rudhach community paper and a meeting room.
Another feature will be a multi-use area, which could become a hot desk hub for homeworkers, complete with office facilities and good wifi.
A new community book stall area has also been factored into the plans as the existing one, set up and run by Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe has proved very popular.
The consultation takes place across two Saturdays – May 5 and May 12 – from 12noon to 4pm, in the building itself.
The draft plans will be available for viewing in the Point and Sandwick Trust offices and members of Urras Stòras an Rubha will be on hand for discussion.
A spokesman for Urras Stòras an Rubha said: “The shop in particular is thriving. It’s become the hub of the community very, very quickly.”
Detailing other parts of the new plans, she said the space for Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe (the Ui Church Trust) would give them somewhere to store their interpretation panels for the church which currently have nowhere to go.
She said there was “nowhere else in Point” that could give space to these kinds of groups and said a whole raft of local organisations were involved in Urras Stòras an Rubha and having input to discussions – including the Comann Eachdraidh historical society, Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, the Rudhach, Point Community Council and the Agricultural Society.
She said Tighean Innse Gall had been very helpful and they would soon be looking to the Lottery, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, possibly Leader and also the Landfill Tax for funding.
The shop and cafe are run on a franchise basis, while community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust are the anchor tenant in the building.
Donald John MacSween, general manager of PST, said the building had “become a vital part of community life in the Point and Sandwick area”.
“Since the building opened, it has grown beyond anybody’s wildest expectations. It has become a central part of the community, providing excellent facilities in the cafe and the shop, exhibition space for the Communn Eachdraidh, a busy secondhand book facility and it’s now quite obvious that the building itself is not fit for purpose and is in need of major improvement and refurbishment. The current plans, when implemented, will achieve that.”
Norman Macleod, director of the Buth an Rubha shop and joint director of the cafe, agreed the works were “desperately needed”, adding: “This place took off so well and it so appreciated.
He said the proposed changes in the cafe would be wonderful as the view – with the changing colours of sea and sky and boats coming in and out of Stornoway – was “absolutely magnificent”.