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Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn announces handover of new business centre

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (UOG) is delighted to announce it has taken possession of the new business centre in South Galson, Isle of Lewis.

UOG staff, who are currently working from home, will now adopt a hybrid working pattern in a blend of home-based and office-based activity.

This comes ten years after UOG took occupancy of the original business centre which was sadly destroyed by fire in early 2019. By the beginning of 2020, designs for the replacement business centre on the same site had advanced to tender stage, with prices submitted by local contractors. However, it was not possible to finalise a contract at that time with COVID-19 looming, and the process was discontinued.

Following the COVID-19 lockdown, the project was re-tendered, with CalMax Construction (Stornoway) emerging as the successful contractor. Works commenced in December 2020, with CalMax employing a variety of local and off-island sub-contractors as the project progressed.

By mid-February 2021, the timber kit had arrived on site in South Galson, and despite major delays with the external cladding material, which saw contractor CalMax Construction having to create an alternative approach to keep the structure wind and watertight during the summer months, cladding was finally completed in August. In the same month, all services were led through the building, with completion of the main office building achieved in late October. Some external works are continuing into November.

Although the new business centre is similar in size to the previous premises, there are some key changes. Principally, the layout of the new business centre has been remodelled, creating more flexible and open-plan accommodation. Oberlanders Architects, based in Ardgay in Sutherland, were responsible for the design of the building, and headed up a team including WSD Scotland, CDMM UK and Maciver Consultancy Services. Another key change on-site is the addition of visitor facilities, including toilets, waste disposal facilities, and a small number of overnight motorhome bays for visitors to North Lewis. Originally envisaged as a later phase, the provision of grant funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprises for tourism infrastructure meant that these elements could be accelerated and incorporated within the current contract. The final cost of the business centre and visitor facilities sits at around £1m, including professional fees, fit-out and VAT.

Donald Mackay, Contracts Manager at CalMax, said: “CalMax Construction is pleased to have successfully completed the main office build for Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn. It has been a challenging project due to the impacts of COVID-19 and Brexit which required some alternative approaches to be developed when materials were delayed but we successfully navigated these difficulties.”

Catriona Hill, partner at Oberlanders Architects, added: “It is highly satisfying to have reached handover of the main building and to see the planning come to fruition after various setbacks and delays due to COVID-19, in particular. This is our first Outer Hebrides project that has been delivered and it has been a very positive experience working with the client and main contractor despite the challenges encountered along the way.”

In closing, Agnes Rennie, Chair of UOG, commented: “We are delighted to have reached this stage of construction after more than two years of planning and preparation. It has been a difficult journey at times without our own premises but the organisation comes out of this stronger for the experience and we now look forward to taking up occupation in the weeks ahead. It is timely as we have our AGM in November and our fifteen-year anniversary of the buy-out coming up in January, so it is pleasing to be able to deliver these in-house now. We are grateful to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Comunn Eachdraidh Nis for the use of their premises in the interim period while we went about planning our return to South Galson. Thanks are also due to the team of construction professionals led by Oberlanders Architects and to CalMax Construction as the contractor for the replacement building.”

Editor Notes 1. For further information, please contact: Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn, Tom na Bà, South Galson, Isle of Lewis,HS2 0SH, 01851 850 393, 2. Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn is the community land trust responsible for managing the Galson Estate, Isle of Lewis, on the community’s behalf. Galson Estate has proudly been in community ownership since 2007. For more information, see 3. Picture captions: Above, UOG staff and board members outside the new business centre, alongside CalMax and Oberlanders Architects staff, and below, the new business centre.


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