It is reported that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have awarded the lease for the provision of accommodation at Lews Castle to the company Natural Retreats. It is worth noting that this accommodation will not just comprise of self-catering units, but also of serviced accommodation (read: hotel rooms), a fact that continues to be omitted from local news reports.
A couple of years ago, the Comhairle finally managed to secure
funding for the refurbishment of the Castle, which has lain in disrepair
for years. This work is now nearing completion, meaning that the Castle
can be put to use for the benefit of the whole of the Western Isles.
Natural Retreats will be paying a commercial rent until at least 2044,
and contribute towards the cost of the refurbishment.
Local providers of self-catering accommodation are opposed to this move on the grounds that the Castle development will stand in direct competition to their businesses.
The Council is obliged to obtain best value for money from the use of
its assets, in this case Lews Castle. It is my conviction that they
will have weighed up pros and cons. There will also have been a
tendering exercise, as they are obliged to do under European laws, as a
result of which Natural Retreats has been awarded the lease.
Further details are to be worked out in the next few weeks and months.
The Castle will open to the public next year. Apart from
accommodation, it will host a cafeteria and a museum and archives