The prospective owners of a Hebridean croft on the market for more than £200,000 want to make it a sound healing centre.
The 17-acre croft on Harris, beside one of the world’s best beaches, is still under offer but a planning application has been submitted to create the therapy school.
The applicants, Malcolm and Lesley Gough, whose farming operation in the Midlands includes a herd of miniature cattle, are accredited sound therapists and say the new facility will attract clients from Scotland and abroad.
Sound therapy uses sound, music and specialist instruments played in therapeutic ways, combined with deep self-reflection techniques to improve health and wellbeing.
However, some islanders believe practical investment is needed to encourage more people to live and work there and warn young people are being priced out of the market and forced to leave. Earlier this month, the Scottish Government announced it would pay young people and families £50,000 to relocate to the islands, promising £5 million over the coming years.
However, the Harris croft was on the market for offers over £200,000 and now the neighbouring croft is also up for sale at the same price. Sitting behind Luskentyre beach, the crofts have stunning views over to the island of Taransay.
Planning permission in principle was granted in April by Western Isles Council for a dwelling house with garage and “sound studio”. Gough, who already runs a farm and sound therapy studio in England, said in a submission to the council: “Our intention is to create the Western Isle’s first accredited School of Sound Healing, which should benefit the local community of Harris and Lewis as well as attracting students and clients from the Western Isles, the mainland and overseas.
“We shall in effect be transferring the successful business model we have created at our farm in Rutland. Our experience of successfully running a 40-acre farm over 12 years has shown us how necessary it is to develop several income streams which collectively help to create a viable business.”
The Goughs have a herd of miniature Hereford cattle at their farm, and say they hope to introduce the cows to Harris. Gough added: “Our herd of pedigree miniature Hereford cattle are ideally suited to uplands grazing but they are currently very rare in Europe – we are the main breeder – and hence they are sought after, which is reflected in their relatively high price. We hope that the introduction of miniature Herefords to Harris will strengthen the viability of livestock crofting in the Western Isles.”
Now the neighbouring nine-hectare croft – Number 5 – is on the market.
Ex-Scottish Office Minister Brian Wilson, who set-up the Community Land Unit and the fund on which community buy-outs of crofting estates was based, said: “The words ‘croft’ and £200,000’ should not appear in the same advert. The system is collapsing under the weight of money and if anyone in the Scottish Government thinks it is worth defending, now is the time to act.
“The fiction which underpins this is that someone who pays £200,000 or much more for a croft tenancy is going to persuade the Crofting Commission of their agricultural fitness when what they are actually buying is a housing site or sites in a spectacular scenic area.
“Unless that distinction is enforced by regulation, the system is an empty shell. If the Crofting Commission admits it is unenforceable, then the realities should be addressed rather than the fiction maintained.”
On the proposed studio, Wilson said: “The Crofting Commission is supposed to judge whether any such plans are credible and in the crofting interest – or if they will quietly become the sound of silence.”
The community landlord, West Harris Trust, said the latest sale would be discussed at its board meeting next week. “The Trust remains concerned that the ever increasing prices being realised for crofts and houses make it very difficult for young people to remain in the community,” it said.
The sale to the Goughs, who declined to comment, has to be approved by the Crofting Commission but no application has yet been received.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe