Westray Development Trust

Who we are

Westray in placeWestray is the largest of Orkney's North Isles with a population of 600. The primary industries are agriculture and fishing, with a rapidly growing tourism economy. In 1998 the island was facing a number of challenges including depopulation, a decline in traditional industries, a limited range of employment opportunities and the remoteness of the island.

Westray Community Council held a public meeting attended by over 100 residents to discuss the issues and challenges facing the community. Westray Development Group was formed that year to progress the many positive ideas to emerge from that meeting. Sub-groups were set up and, crucially, a conference was held as a way of bringing together the community and the various agencies which might contribute to the island's future.

As a result of that conference, a development plan, Turning the Tide, was established, which defined the vision of the future of the island:

"To develop the economic, social and cultural sustainability of our community by harnessing the quality of our resources, people and island environment"

The Westray Development Group, later renamed the Westray Development Trust, was set up to take forward the Development Plan.

The Westray Development Trust is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Everyone in the community is invited to become a member. The Trust continues to work with partners to implement the strategies, projects and actions detailed in this Development Plan prepared by our community.

What we do

Sustainability and self-financing are seen as key to the Westray Development Trust. After attending a Development Trust Association conference, where they heard about how other communities across the UK were generating income, it decided to put up a wind turbine, to generate funds and create and independent income for the trust.

cutting the sodIt was anticipated that the funds would be used to pay for current and future projects, to further develop the island of Westray and to implement the development plan.

Community buy-in was essential and through effective engagement processes and involvement, the community has been very supportive, and has contributed to the success of Westray and ownership of the project.

Through a range of funding sources, the trust was able to employ a renewables development officer and fund technical development work. Westray Renewable Energy Ltd was established to take the project forward and with support from Community Energy Scotland, were able to tap into the experience of other communities as well as a number of resources, including technical consultants.

But the process has not been without its challenges. As a small community, they struggled to find the financial resources to realise their vision. They had problems finding suppliers of wind turbines who would supply a single turbine to such a remote island. They also had issues with planning and logistics.

After four years of hard work, Westray's community turbine was finally installed in October and is already generating an income for the island.

The process and experience has brought the community closer together, building their confidence, helping people realise their potential. The trust was surprised by the skills of the community, and the willingness of people to get involved. And their determination has paid off!

The trust has developed many successful community projects, including creation of a youth drop-in centre, development of a marina and the installation of small wind turbines into 3 community facilities. They also have a biofuels project.

The community is very proud of what it has achieved and what it means for the future of its island.

What next?

The turbine is there to achieve big things that make a real difference to the island. The trust will ensure that income won't be squandered away. They have plans to tackle fuel poverty, to develop the local golf course, and to improve skills by extending the number of courses at the Learning Centre. They also plan to set up a revolving loan fund for local islanders wanting to set up a business.

Westray Development Trust are keen to share their knowledge and experience with other community groups wanting to do the same type of project. They believe that they have set up the template to cover core activities but each project will have its own unique set of challengesContact details

If you would like to learn more about Westray Development Trust, please contact David Stephenson:
By telephone: 01857 677789
By e-mail: info@westray-orkney.co.uk

Or by post at:

Westray Development Trust
Hewison Room
Westray Parish Kirk
Westray
Orkney KW17 2DB

Website: www.westray-orkney.co.uk