Half Year Update

Well we are just over 6 months into our financial year, so we thought a little update on the progress of all our projects was in order.

Key Theme 1 – Housing

We have received the housing report, a full copy of which will be available on the website soon, which contains information on:

  • The land availability, currently marketed or otherwise
  • An options appraisal for each area of identified land, detailing the potential of developing a range of both domestic and commercial properties
  • A report of funding opportunities for; land purchase, domestic and commercial property development and revenue costs of developing these.
  • An appraisal of the current and future employment needs of the main employment providers and their attitude towards supporting a housing project.
  • A comparative study of the current market values of a broad range of commercial and domestic properties on Westray, in Orkney and National
  • The delivery of and a report of community engagement exercises, exploring local people’s attitudes towards a housing development project
  • A report, including running costs, of organisations with the ability to manage the lettings and maintenance of the domestic and commercial properties
  • An exploration of emerging opportunities to link with any local and national projects, maximising the benefit of developing housing and commercial properties.
  • Identification of areas of land where the potential exists to use legislation to transfer ownership, for the purposes of building development, to the community

The Trust is considering a Housing Development Sub Group to consider the report and develop a funding plan to take this forward.

Ian Ricketts plans on attending the Rural Housing Conference this year and we will feed what he discovers back to you on his return.

Theme 2 – Industry and Business

The quarry proposal continues to take positive steps forward with an initial screening opinion being submitted to Orkney Islands Council. So far there have not been any previously considered issues that need to be addressed. We anticipate that a full planning application will be made within the next 3 months.

The trust has temporarily suspended its business loans policy to enable a thorough review of the policy and processes to take place. The gap between what the Trust could expect when investing an amount over a period of time, when compared with what the Trust could expect with the same amount over the same time period and at similar interest rates, is considerable. The Trust has to be able to justify that the gap is weighted more towards community benefit, over what could be perceived to be personal benefit. Currently we have no tangible way of assessing that benefit. We are therefore looking at two routes, first is to adapt our current grant scoring matrix to reflect the impact of the loans and the second is to work with a Business Graduate to develop a way of calculating social impact.

The Fruit and Vegetable growing project has been developing over the last 6 months with the Trust being awarded over £101,000 to assist with developing it. Planning permission was applied for in late November and considering that Papay erected the same type of greenhouse recently and that the community were expressing no concerns during the public consultation phases, we anticipated a problem free planning process. However, an objection was raised regarding privacy, noise and concerns that a private drive would be used to park cars, was received by the council. Attempts continue to see what can be done to overcome the concerns. If these concerns cannot be overcome then the application will go to committee on the 29th March. Unfortunately this would mean that the planned build of 20th March would have to be delayed and growing any produce this summer would be unlikely.

The Tourism Development project comes to an end after 2 years. There have been some mixed outcomes with equal amounts of successful developments and learning opportunities being identified. The project will leave us with a new website and hopefully a new venue booking system (which is proving surprisingly difficult to source), a brand new Westray guide, a study into the state of the adopted paths of Westray and a report on the potential opportunities that archaeological tourism could bring to the island.

Theme 3 Youth and Children

Planning for the Fund Raising Shop was submitted under the same application as the fruit and veg project, it occupying the same piece of land. It is therefore subject to potential delays, although we have the buildings ready to go and just need the ground developed to take them.

Following the remarkable donation from the pop-up cafe last year the Trust approved a budget to refurbish the interior of the Hofn’s main two rooms. Work has started with the kitchen area being remodelled and, new furniture and a new multi-use games table purchased. Thank you to all for putting up with all the upheaval during the work.

Theme 4 – Health and Care

The Trust approved a budget of £1000 to decorate the Chapel of Rest and work will commence shortly with volunteers from the Community Council and Trust to do the work.

The Home Help service continues to attract more users and more staff. It is hoped that the service will continue to grow for the community.

Work continues on exploring the possibility of developing some kind of facility or complex to support the vital and emergency services based on Westray.

Theme 5 – Environment

Nothing further to report on this Key Theme.

Theme 6 Recreation & Liesure and Voluntary Groups

The new financial year (July onwards) will see additional criteria being added to the grant assessment matrix. This will score the applications attempts (successful or otherwise) to secure or raise additional funding themselves prior to applying to the Trust. This is to ensure that the Trust does not undermine all the  hard work that the community groups and their fund raisers have  previously achieved.

Theme 7 – Transport

Nothing further to report on this Key Theme

Theme 8 – Education and Training

Early discussions are planned to explore what support could be provided to the school, above what is already in existence, to maximise the opportunities for learners and community members.

Other Areas

Through a competitive process, The Trust was matched with a senior Manager with the Bank of Scotland who will act as a Non-Executive Director of the board as part of a pilot scheme to support community groups. Already he has been able to give some guidance and steerage towards some subtle changes.

Broadband – remains a very emotive subject for those who don’t have good or indeed any access to broadband. We continue to liaise very closely with the authorities on this and have recently used our position to expedite the delays to getting broadband into the village. We are aware of other communities and specifically those in North West England who have developed the B4RN project,  providing super-fast broadband themselves. However, geography and the very nature that Westray is an island would have a huge bearing on anything being developed locally. However, we are keeping a listening watch on developments and will pursue any opportunities that present themselves.

Investments – recognising that the Trust needs to secure the future of the organisations and its activities, it has started to deposit money into a long-term investments strategy. Responding directly to comments about the ethical nature of some investment portfolios the Trust conducted a thorough assessment of the opportunities available that addressed the ethics raised by some members. We are glad to say that we identified that The Churches, Charities and Local Authorities group had an Ethical Investment Fund which had the potential to offer average annual returns of around 4% over the lifetime of the investment. With it meeting the criteria the board approved an initial investment of £750,000 to be deposited with an annual deposit to be taken from the income we receive from WRE Ltd.

Recruitment – The Trust has recently developed a new permanent post with the Trust for 16 hours per week as an Admin Assistant. We hope to be appointing the successful candidate in the very near future. We are also looking at recruiting two part-time gardening staff for the fruit and vegetable garden on a 2 year contract.

There are currently 5 vacancies in the trust board and we would welcome expressions of interest in joining the team. It is a particularly busy period of development and the whole team would welcome fresh eyes and input. If you want to know more about volunteering with the Trust in any way, please contact one of the directors or members of staff.

If there are any questions about this half yearly update, please don’t hesitate to contact the Trust Office.

Quarry Assessment Update

In early January Paul Everett of the British Geology Survey visited Westray to conduct assessments of several quarry sites. Paul’s visit has given us some early indications of the stone quality, its locations and where it might be possible to quarry it.

The stone samples are currently being transported to the British Geology Survey offices in Edinburgh and Sandberg’s (a stone analysis company) of London for various testing. The results of which will give us a clear indications of its material composition, how it will behave in a crusher, its durability and how it weathers. If it is of sufficient quality then we can expect it to be certified to industry standards.

Concurrently we have been in contact with Orkney Islands Council and Scottish Natural Heritage to gauge their opinion and although no formal planning process has taken place, we are encouraged by their feedback.

During Paul’s visit he was able to completely rule out the old Rapness Quarry. In order for this quarry to be used again, it would have to be blasted which, creates considerable complications and costs as it would have to be done on a larger scale than the Trust anticipates. Blasting would also lower the quality of the stone too, as there is a significant band of shale running through the entire face which, would get mixed up with the stone during the blasting.

Once we have the testing results and some firmer news from OIC, we intend to present this information back to the members and community, as promised at the AGM, to gauge further opinion.

Quarry Assessment

Paul Everett, a geologist from the British Geology Survey team, will be visiting Westray from 11th to 15th January to conduct the quarry assessments.

He has been tasked to identify up to 4 potential sites and give recommendations on the quality and quantity, likely productivity and costs associated with each site. The Trust then intends producing a paper, to be distributed to the community for further approval.

His visit will begin with a tour of the island, from which land owners may be contacted, requesting permission to conduct a sampling exercise on their land.

If you have any questions about this, please contact Andy in the Trust office on 01857 677858.

Quarry Assessment Contract signed

The directors yesterday agreed upon a contract with the British Geological Survey, to conduct quarry site assessments on Westray. Once completed the Trust will share the information with it’s members and broader community.

The contract is commercial sensitive, so therefore the Trust is unable to publicly disclose the full details however the following is a summary of the intended work.

(i) Conduct an assessment of 3-4 sites identified as potential resources of natural stone on the Isle of Westray. Those site(s) identified as the most prospective will be studied in greater detail. The assessment will be based on examination of rock exposed at the sites, as well as borehole cores and records, if available(note 1). The following will be assessed:

  • stone character and stone variability
  • fracture distribution and the effect of fractures on the size and shape of extractable blocks
  • estimates of the volume of recoverable stone and overburden at the sites
  • geological features that have the potential to limit quarry expansion or increase the waste ratio

A number of representative samples will be collected from potential resources for analysis and characterisation.

(ii) Conduct a comparison and assessment of the quality of the sampled natural stone for a range of purposes, including dimension stone, walling stone and as crushed stone for farm tracks.

This will include petrographic analysis as well as geotechnical testing of representative samples. The programme of geotechnical testing will be conducted by a third party (a well-reputed testing house) who specialise in lab-based test methods(note 2). Test results will be interpreted by BGS. Results will be compared to those from materials currently imported to the island for building purposes to allow a cost-benefit analysis to be conducted by the client.

(iii) Prepare a report describing the outcomes of (i) and (ii).

Advice will be given on potential uses of the stone, its durability, and on appropriate methods for extracting and storing stone.

The price quoted below includes the cost of a member of staff spending five days on Westray to examine the quarries and conduct representative sampling for material characterisation.

The price also assumes that assistance will be offered by Westray Development Trust for the following:

1) Transportation of BGS staff and equipment between sites on the island during the visit

2) Shipping and/or provision of suitable tools for quarry sampling

3) Shipping of samples to BGS and test labs (up to 100kg. of material may be required)

4) Co-ordinating landowner permission for access and sampling of the sites

If you have any questions relating to the quarry assessment, then please do not hesitate to contact Andy on 01857 677858


Quarry feasibility study

Initial investigations have now been completed and  have shown that re-opening the Rapness Quarry is unlikely to be viable, mostly because of the poor quality of the stone and the large amount of waste (up to 1/3 of stone blasted will end up as waste, and even the good stuff isn’t very suitable for concrete).   WDT will therefore start investigating whether there are other potential sites on Westray that could be opened or reopened and provide better quality stone.   If you can help with this (know of any quarries that might fit this) please let us know.

Quarry project update

There has been a lot more work on this feasibility study.   Someone from the council planning department has been out for a site visit to advise on planning requirements, and a surveyor and a contractor have also done site visits.

Applications for tender have now been sent to three companies to gauge interest in providing the blasting and crushing service to Westray and to also see if the project will be viable.  Further information to follow.