Mission and Some Information for Residents and Visitors

Mission

 

A peopled wildness.

 

Gometra tries to unhitch the link between human communities and environmental devastation - we are getting somewhere - we have a long way to go.

 

Constraint

 

Gometra is a very remote location with very little access to government services, shops, etc.  This should be considered before deciding to live on or visit the island.

 

Aspirations

 

Protection of the biodiversity and wildness which is all we have to offer residents and visitors, and on which our survival as a community depends.

 

Reasonable access to medical care and patient transport.  At present, if someone is obviously dying or about to lose a major limb, a helicopter is sent.  Otherwise we are on our own unless we can get to the surgery on Mull which involves either a 16 mile return journey across mountain tracks and a sea crossing with infrequent winter ferry,  or a 15 mile transatlantic return crossing in exposed waters, both followed by a 20 mile return hike on a single track road with infrequent traffic.  Anyone wanting to do this with their own resources in all weathers would need to maintain a vehicle for Gometra and Ulva, a road car for Mull, and a boat to cross between them.  This has been beyond the means of many of the several dozen Gometra people over the last 20 years.  Children, above all, sometimes need to see a doctor even if they are not obviously dying, and if they are sick enough to need a doctor, they may be too sick to make this arduous journey, especially on foot.  Having brought up four children on the island, this is the single most serious problem we face.

 

Partnership with a housing association for help improving our housing stock and delivering compliance responsibilities.

 

Access to public transport, even on a weekly basis.

 

An improved Royal Mail postal service, even three times a week to replace our urgent outgoing local postal service.

 

An outgoing Royal Mail service to replace our local postal service.

 

A teacher or teaching assistant, when there are school age children on the island not otherwise provided for.

 

Reliable landline, mobile and broadband.

 

Recognition by neighbouring community organisations and political authorities that we are our own community with our own needs and aspirations, and that it is not only inappropriate and wrong to force insensitive and unwanted outcomes on us against our settled will, but risks our viability and safety as a community.  Some formal arrangement by which our views will be canvassed, respected and acted on by Mull Community Council and Argyll and Bute Council, who are supposed to be representing our interests.

 

A polling station, so we can vote for representatives who will help us with these aspirations.

 

Housing

 

Condition of our housing stock is basic but we believe it's better to house people in basic accommodation than not at all.  We engage with neighbouring housing and community development organisations in the hope of securing help with compliance, and the upgrade of our housing stock, increasingly complex to manage in-house.

 

We usually now offer  short assured tenancies.  If it is a repairing short assured tenancy or a standard short assured tenancy, any work put into a property is voluntary, at own risk, and may count towards rent but is not chargeable to us and must be agreed in writing.  Subject to cash flow we will try to source moderate quantities of building materials if needed.

 

Tenancies are not indefinite; one day we will have to give notice.  This may be for many reasons, including because legislation is changing so as to make it harder for us to continue to provide compliant short assured tenancies, or because we need the accommodation for some other purpose.  One day we or our successors will have to sell this farm and its housing stock as a whole, or the housing stock individually, either to retire or to reinvest in this business or another business or housing elsewhere, or for countless other possible reasons.  We hope there will be no hard feelings or antagonism when this time comes.

 

If we have availability, when choosing between prospective tenants we look for the following : previous connection with Gometra, prior commitment to sustainability, experience with livestock, experience with boats, experience with remote living, contribution to our focus on the arts.

 

Dwellings and workspace

 

We all try to respect one another's privacy and uninterrupted workspace around our dwellings and their curtilage, and we say that entry is by invitation especially during the working day.  My house is out of bounds when I am away please, unless I invite you in.

 

Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Alarm

 

Please check these regularly, and let us know in writing if there is any problem.  We will come in every so often (with good notice) to check they are working.

 

Council Tax

 

Residents pay their own council tax.  The water and sewerage extra is not payable.  This is currently around £785.33 with a 25% discount for a single adult.   http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/node/25827

 

Water

 

Water comes untreated from the hill and should be boiled before use.

 

Gas

 

We cannot provide gas appliances for tenants, and tenants should make their own safe arrangements in this respect.

 

Energy Performance Certificate

 

Likewise, despite considerable efforts including with their professional body, we have been unable to get an Energy Performance surveyor to come to Gometra.  Tenants should presume that our 19th century housing stock is in the lowest energy efficiency category, category G.

 

Power

 

We've had serious amenity and anti-social behaviour issues, when excessive generator-use has spoilt Gometra for other residents and visitors.  Places relatively free from cars and other engines, are increasingly rare and merit protection.  There are plenty of places for people who don't mind about this to go, but very few for those who do.  So we have a presumption against routine generator use (except for emergencies and building work) and pollution from noise, light and fumes.  We ask that if a generator is brought onto the farm, it should be silenced and vented so that someone standing at the front door of a neighbouring property (or fifty yards away in case of an isolated property) cannot tell if it is running or not.  We allow any resident to veto generator use at any time except clipping stock and for building work, so as to prevent a creeping loss of amenity to residents and visitors by habituation to generator use.   We favour renewable sources of electricity (in particular wind and solar) which cost little more to implement, and nothing to run, and do not have the anti-social externalities of generators

 

Broadband

 

Satellite broadband wifi service is usually provided at Baileargrach for everyone's fair use, but you must provide own power to run it please.

 

Transport

 

Iain and Rhoda have their own quad and a boat - these do not belong to the farm and are not for general use.  People needing vehicle transport need to make their own arrangements or approach Iain and Rhoda directly.  In practice if its a journey by land to Ulva Ferry, we usually walk unless someone else is making the journey since this does not take much longer than going by quad, and this is what we recommend.

 

Vehicles

 

We have an abandoned vehicle problem on Gometra.  We ask that you request written permission before bringing a vehicle onto the farm, we may ask for a deposit towards removal costs.  You may only bring a vehicle onto the farm having regard to the existing conditions of the tracks and your own safety, and you should never drive at such a speed that you may lose control given the roughness of the tracks.  There is no right of way, but 4x4s may be used at own risk by tenants for transport but not recreation on the track from Am Bru to the outside of the arch at Baileargrach.  Quads may also be used for transport but not recreation on the track from Am Bru to the outside of the arch at Baileargragh, and then onwards skirting the outside of the gardens and running along the outside of the park fence to the North Harbour.  4x4s are not allowed on this part of the track because they would harm its surface for quad use.  No vehicles except farm contractors' vehicles are allowed in the farmyard or gardens and grounds of dwellings, or off the above named tracks.  The tracks are in a basic condition, and we would recommend discussing putting some labour into their improvement if you wish to use them regularly.  If a vehicle is abandoned on Gometra, we will need to recover the cost of removing it from you even if you have moved on.  Bicycles are welcome and do not need prior arrangement provided they are used at your own risk, having regard to the rough state of the track.

 

If you need to cross Ulva Estate regularly by vehicle, they will pass on to us some of the cost of maintaining their track, and we will pass the bit which corresponds to your use on to you.  We are currently in contact with Ulva regarding this issue.

 

Parking at Ulva Ferry

 

Various bodies provide parking at Ulva Ferry (including Turus Mara, Ulva Estate and Oskamull Estate) and you will need to make some arrangement directly with them if you wish to keep a car on Mull.

 

Crossing Ulva Ferry between Ulva and Mull

 

This is a paid ferry service and you will need to make your own arrangements for paying for use of the ferry.

 

Gometra Farm

 

If we cannot deliver good welfare standards due to the extreme conditions in which of necessity we operate, we will have to cease livestock farming.  Our farming business and Iain and Rhoda's contracting business are the economic engine room of the island's community, but our uniquely remote location makes farming marginal, and transporting livestock to market uniquely difficult, and there are ethical and climate change considerations surrounding livestock farming in general wherever it is carried out.  In the long run we recognise given Gometra's remoteness, that without additional much needed support we may need to diversify, probably into forestry.

 

Iain Munro has a contract to look after the Gometra livestock.  If you wish to subcontract with him that is between you and him, you must have proper regard to health and safety and our risk assessment, and does not constitute employment by us.  There is no obligation to help with the Gometra livestock in any way, except by letting us know as a matter of urgency if you see an animal in distress or dead or if you are concerned about any welfare issues, so we can set them right.  Entry to the farmyard is by invitation only please and at your own risk, for health and safety reasons.

 

Fuel

 

We ask that residents either bring in their own fuel or buy it from Mr Munro who has offered to supply it on request.

 

Risks Note

 

Please read the Risks Note which has been sent to you and follow the instructions/advice thereon.

 

Metal detector

 

Not without arrangement with Gometra please.

 

Livestock

 

Cattle can be dangerous, especially with calves and around dogs, and also if they think you are carrying feeding.  Please keep well clear.

 

Shellfish & Biodiversity

 

In the absence of local shops we all live on shellfish for the table - we ask for fair usage which reflects other peoples needs, and that commercial gathering should be restrained if it seems likely to harm stocking levels.  Native oysters are under pressure and we discourage their collection.

 

Access Takers

 

We make responsible access takers welcome, and provide the bothy at Baileclaidh on a shared basis free of charge for the first week.  Please check with us to make sure it is available.  We ask access takers to respect our privacy around gardens, and the curtilage of dwellings.  If you would like to book the bothy for exclusive use, you can do so for a fee.  The bothy has a sleeping platform, a bench, and an open fire.  Mr Munro sells coal - 01688500221.

 

Piers & Boats

 

North Harbour Pier is slippery and rough.  We do not recommend its use until it has been improved, but if you do want to use it, please do so only at your own risk and take extreme care.  Derelict piers, of which there are many around the island, should not be used for health and safety reasons.  If you put a boat temporarily on one of our unused moorings, it must be at your own risk.  We cannot take responsibility for the condition or suitability of any boat you may get - this is your responsibility.  Our approach is usually to walk unless we can get a lift from someone making the journey to Ulva Ferry, and this is what we recommend.  I keep a dingy at Ulva Ferry and North Harbour etc for my own use only.  For health and safety reasons other people must not use it for farm, business or personal use.

 

Approval of changes

 

Please run any changes to dwellings you want to make past us.  We discourage PVC windows and some other items for architectural conservation and amenity reasons.

 

Salmon Farm

 

'A new Scottish sustainable development strategy …  will focus on … breaking the link between economic growth and environmental damage.'  (Scottish Government).  This is why we want sustainable jobs and do not support the expansion of salmon farming until its environmental problems are solved.  We do not have any problem with people working for the salmon farms, only with environmental devastation when they are poorly managed.  The tragedy is that by moving to a closed cage system we could keep salmon farm jobs and jobs in eco-tourism, angling and wild fisheries in a win-win scenario far from the present mess, in which salmon companies squander shareholders money on an unsustainable fight against disease while destroying the resources the rest of us depend on for our livelihoods.  In our opposition to salmon farming, which is a genuine disaster for Gometra on navigational safety, biodiversity and wildness grounds, we are squeezing the toes of powerful interest groups with considerable resources which have embedded themselves in the Scottish political and regulatory landscape at all levels and while they and their supporters may well succeed in shutting us down, they won't shut us up.

 

Property

 

We cannot accept any responsibility for property left on the farm or in any of the dwellings.

 

General

 

Please do not hesitate to let us know in writing if you are unhappy with any aspect of this.  We always try where reasonably possible to do things by consensus (to the extent of boring everyone with endless emails).  Please email or text me so there is a written record of any problems.  All the above is subject to the terms of any lease you may be granted, and may change.

 

Thanks very much - and very sorry for the rules.

 

Roc Sandford, Gometra.  Contact details : 07525751171 (text), gometrafarm@mac.com

 

All text and Images © Roc Sandford, Gometra, 2015 unless otherwise stated.  Please let us know of any corrections or suggestions.  To contact us click here.