An island community are celebrating this month having finally taken control of their local filling station.
South Islay Development (SID) were handed the keys to Port Ellen Filling Station on Friday 2 May.
The project has been supported with funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Land Fund.
Port Ellen Filling Station, which closed in December 2013, has two fuel pumps and was the only source of fuel in South Islay which has a population of over 1,000. Residents now need to visit Bowmore, 10 miles from Port Ellen, if they require fuel which can result in a round trip as high as 38 miles for peripheral households.
Port Ellen hosts one of the island’s two ferry ports which welcome thousands of visitors to the island each year. Visitors are drawn by South Islay’s three distilleries, RSPB reserve, historical sites and expansive beaches.
The project secures the ownership of Port Ellen Filling Station and additional land by SID. The Scottish Land Fund has awarded £50,000 towards the project, including business development and investigating the future potential of the site. HIE has awarded £17,500 towards the costs of buying the building and associated legal fees. A business plan was prepared with assistance from Just Enterprise.
The purchase of the filling station not only secures a valuable service for South Islay but also creates opportunities to develop the business, retains a permanent part time job while providing volunteering and training opportunities for local people.
Jackie Thomson, Chair of South Islay Development, said: "At last South Islay Development has secured a very valuable resource in the filling station for the local community. The Port Ellen business has great potential for the area and there is a growing sense of optimism here in south Islay. SID are taking all the necessary steps to get the petrol pumps flowing again and to focus on trying to develop the business and the site. We cannot thank enough all the individuals and organisations who have guided us and helped us get to this point."
SID was established in 2010 to manage community-owned land and assets for the benefit of the residents of South Islay and to advance community development and regeneration.
The group is currently renting space in the village hall but are now scoping ideas for development of the land next to the Filling Station. Opportunities have already been identified to expand the business, especially around products and services for the growing marine tourism market.
HIE works with communities like SID using a community account management approach. This ensures communities themselves are controlling and driving their development, with HIE on hand to provide the support needed.
Eleanor MacNab, development officer in HIE’s strengthening communities team, retires from the agency this week but has worked closely with SID. She said: “We are delighted that SID have finally received the keys to Port Ellen Filling Station and can start work to reopen and develop the business. The filling station is a crucial resource in the area and its loss even for a short time is keenly felt locally. The community group have worked extremely hard to put together a business plan and attract funding for the project. Now they are in control of an asset which should not only prove sustainable but also in time help support additional projects in the area.”