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Pioneering houses a spectacular addition to the community of Morvern

The community of Morvern this month takes possession of two exceptional new houses (pictures attached). Their pioneering construction and design mean they must be among the most desirable rental houses in the country – with ultra-low running costs, exceptional insulation, masses of natural light, a great sense of space, and a spectacular position.
The houses are being opened at a reception for guests invited from all over Scotland at 12.30 on Thursday 5th September, with lunch provided by the award-winning Whitehouse Restaurant, Lochaline, Morvern. The media is invited.
Part of the affordable housing commitment by Ardtornish Estate at its new development at Achabeag on the Sound of Mull, the houses were designed and built by a unique partnership created for the purpose. Morvern’s Roderick James Architects, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, and Ardtornish Estate created the Achabeag Partnership, and built the houses with the assistance of the Scottish Government and Highland Council. Construction was by MacDonald Joinery.
Managing Director of Ardtornish Estate Hugh Raven said
“The two different house types - the Croft House, and the Fair and Square – have dramatic full-height internal living spaces, with Douglas Fir structural frames, and very good levels of natural light from roof glazing. The aluminum clad timber windows are virtually maintenance free. The timber for both was sourced mostly from local forests in the Lochaber area, the insulation using recycled newspaper collected by local schoolchildren, and processed by Warmcel. Novel sloping exterior walls and pagoda-style roofs give both great charm and individuality. The minimal heating requirements are met by a woodstove and off-peak electricity, heat storage in a thermal floor slab, and solar thermal panels for hot water.”
Roderick James added
“Both houses have been built as prototypes and show houses for future developments across the country. A wide range of suppliers was invited to help build and fit them out to a standard well above that covered by the budget. Many have helped enormously - contributing materials or products free of charge as their investment in the venture, with a view to being part of the team to deliver these house types much further afield - to self-builders, developers, local authorities, and social landlords. Particular thanks are due to MacDonald Joinery, BSW, and Robertson.”
The Partnership put together a unique financing package, enabling the two houses to be let on the local affordable housing market for twenty one years, at relatively low cost to the public purse.
Ronnie MacRae, director of Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, said
“HSCHT are delighted at being able to pilot an innovative new lease scheme in partnership with Ardtornish Estate.  We hope this new financial model, which was only made possible recently following helpful changes made by Scottish Government to the leasing legislation, will encourage further affordable housing opportunities across the country, and we’re excited about the possibilities.  With the Scottish Government grant from the innovation and investment fund of £25,000 per house, we were able to get a cash budget of £110,000 per house in total – an exceptionally low figure for houses of this quality in such a remote, and potentially costly, location. HSCHT has invested £35,000 per house, and Ardtornish Estate £50,000, and about £40,000 per house has been contributed in donations and in kind. It has shown a huge commitment by Roderick James Architects, to pull together over twenty different suppliers, and the builder MacDonald Joinery.”
Margaret Burgess, Minister for Housing, said:
“I am delighted to see this project coming to fruition, which as well as delivering new affordable rented housing in a very remote rural area, includes the innovative use of long leases.  This is one of the first projects to use this type of lease for affordable housing since the Scottish Government made changes to the scheme, and it is heartening to see the practical results on the ground – the provision of high quality sustainable homes.
“This project also demonstrates strong partnership working between the local community, the Housing Trust, the Ardtornish Estate and businesses, ensuring the best use of private finance alongside public subsidy. 
“I hope this pilot project encourages further such partnerships, which not only support local economies, but also help to sustain local communities.”
The official opening will take place at Achabeag, Morvern, Lochaber, on 5th September, with speeches and a reception starting at 12.30. Lunch will be by the celebrated Whitehouse Restaurant, Lochaline – winner of the Highlands and Islands Restaurant of the Year award 2012.


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