A national petition has been launched on www.change.org to save a community shop in Castlebay from demolition.

Bùth Bharraigh is a local produce shop selling artisan goods from more than 80 suppliers from Barra and Vatersay, including meat, fish, vegetables, home-baking and crafts. 

Bùth Bharraigh Ltd, established in October 2013, is a sustainable community membership enterprise.  It was established to create opportunities for local people through providing a marketplace for local crofters and producers.  It also employs three full-time people plus 12 volunteers.  Last year it estimates that it brought in £88,000 for the local economy. 

Businesses have been created, supported and grown on the strength of the shop, so crofts are being developed and diversified.  This shop shortens the distance between producer and consumer and it meets the demand from visitors to the island. 

In their statement on www.change.org, the organisers say: “The shop is an all-inclusive organisation and we have producers from school-age to 80's.  It fosters enterprise and nurtures local talent, young and old.  This shop is really important for the future sustainability of the island.”

Yet the local council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are proposing to demolish the building which the shop leases without providing any suitable accommodation for the shop to relocate to. 

“Effectively the local authority are threatening the community business.  We would like to obtain the building by asset transfer.  Please show your support by signing and agreeing Bùth Bharraigh should be allowed to continue to trade in its present location,” says the plea on the petition site. 

In a statement on Friday February 26, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “With regard to the former Co-op building in Castlebay, Isle of Barra, the proposed demolition of the property was included in the Comhairle’s successful ‘South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme’ bid to the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund in 2013. 

“This proposal reflected the wishes of the local community, as expressed by Castlebay Community Council following a survey conducted locally in 2012.  The proposal was also approved by the Comhairle in June 2014. 

“Bùth Bharraigh was made aware of the Comhairle’s intention to demolish building prior to the Comhairle facilitating its temporary occupancy of the building in late 2013 and this occupation was always going to be of a temporary nature. 

“Castlebay Community Council has recently reconsidered and reconfirmed their decision in writing to the Comhairle, stating: 'Following a Committee meeting held on the 8th February 2016, the majority of Community Councillors have agreed to support the decision made by the previous Community Council, that the old Co-op building be demolished as planned by the Comhairle.'"

The statement goes on: "The Comhairle has been supportive of Bùth Bharraigh since its inception; it remains supportive and will continue to support the organisation.  The Comhairle has a policy of advertising opportunities for the lease of business units publicly.  Bùth Bharraigh will be invited to apply, along with any other interested-parties, for the new business units when they become available for let.”

The shop organisers say they were not aware the premises were bound to be demolished when they took them over - instead, they felt they were being given a chance to demonstrate that there was something which could be done with the former retail unit.  Also they say there’s no guarantee they will get a new business unit, nor is there any provision for the interim period. 

It is understood that the Council has received a letter threatening legal action over their decision.

The demolition is part of the £900,000 South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme made up of four inter-linked, regeneration projects dating back to September 2013.  It “provides funding for the development of 372 square metres of business units along with reclamation and environmental improvements to the former Co-op store site in Castlebay” says the Council.

A CnES report in June 2014 states: “There is a demonstrable increase in demand from new and existing businesses and social enterprises on the Island of Barra for purpose-built business units.  Following a recent public meeting in the area, five businesses have formally expressed an interest.  It is proposed to build two new business units to satisfy a wide range of local interests.  The new building would consist of two units of 184 square metres and 188 square metres with manufacturing, retail and office space. 

“The units would be built adjacent to existing units built by the Comhairle in Castlebay Industrial Estate as part of the ERDF-funded project.  The proposal includes the demolition of the former Co-op store with environmental improvements in Castlebay.”
(change.org petition)
(Bùth Bharraigh on Facebook)