A free ferry service to Bressay was one of the ideas put forward at a residents’ meeting to discuss ways to improve the island.
Folk made their suggestions at an open meeting of the Bressay Community Development Association last night.
The cost and availability of the ferry was seen as the main stumbling block for the island and has been labelled the number one priority for Bressay.
About 30 folk attended the meeting where they were able to jot suggestions down on adhesive notes on different topics and then discuss the ideas.
These included positive promotion of the island – through tourism and social networking – community transport and development ideas for the vacant primary school building.
Residents spoke at length about the ferry issue suggesting free and reduced fares and noted that the timetable needed to be looked at as it was too restrictive.
An early ferry service was also spoken about for folk to get to work on the mainland and there was a call for buses to match up better with the ferry service. Ferry issues were discussed against a backdrop of a falling population and lack of young people making up the isles’ population.
One note on the ferries situation read: “Ferry fares always barrier to families moving into the community. Need to look at ways to make fares more affordable for this group in particular. Maybe by expanding season ticket scheme to suit family groups more? Charge a fixed amount for unlimited ferry travel?”
Another idea was to have better information for tourists before they come on the ferry – such as information about access to Noss, when the shop opens and bus/taxi information.
Developing housing in the island was also called for, with more homes for folk between 18-30 to allow them to stay in Bressay. This was ranked as the second priority, though it was argued it depended on the first – the ferry situation.
Development ideas for the school building also attracted a lot of attention with plenty of notes being stuck under the banner. These ranged from using the building as a backpackers’ hostel, for a nursery or a gym or as a centre for older people.
Gemma Tulloch was one of those at the meeting, she said walks in Bressay could be promoted and added a lack of affordable housing made it hard for young folk to stay in the island.
Development association member Sheila Tulloch said the lack of an early morning ferry “is putting Bressay back” and added an early morning service was “crucial if you’re going to develop the island”.
Other ideas included environmental projects with suggestions of electric cars being used, wind generation, and an electric ferry.
Association member Hazel Anderson said there were about 350 residents in Bressay and was grateful to those who attended. Although she would have liked to have seen more folk coming to celebrate the achievements of the BCDA so far. That work will continue, she said.
“We have to keep moving forward, we have to keep looking for more volunteers,” added Ms Anderson. “We have to be looking for more suggestions and ideas from everybody in the community and how to put Bressay back on the map – in terms of transport, promotion of the island, establishing housing and encouraging more folk to come and live in the island.”
The association formed last autumn and has been working to affect positive change for Bressay. An action plan has been created through consultation with locals and a regular skip scheme and newsletter is in place.
Last night an AGM was held following the open meeting. A management committee was formed of 13 members and from there office bearing posts such as chairman, will be elected by committee members. Ideas and priorities of the group will then be taken forward.