29th March 2016
The idea of GALE began in 1996 when the local community got together to agree a plan of action to tackle a range of important local issues such as unemployment, environmental issues and the lack of local services.
Out of these community discussions a regeneration plan for the Wester Loch Ewe area was compiled. In order to implement the plan the community formed a steering group of local volunteers to help drive the work forward. This group then became constituted as a registered Company and registered Scottish Charity and Loch Ewe Action Forum (LEAF) was born.
After submitting a number of competitive funding bids the new company, LEAF, secured funds to employ a full time Project Officer to help drive the regeneration plan forward. Early project included the refurbishment of Poolewe Village Hall, the construction of Inverasdale Slipway and the construction of the first affordable housing development in Inverasdale.
By 2000 much of the regeneration plan had been implemented and LEAF was in demand to carry out community projects in neighbouring communities such as Aultbea and Laide. The LEAF Members voted to extend the company operating area in order to support these neighbouring communities. Working with Aultbea Community Council and the Gairloch Heritage Museum LEAF went on to secure funding to save Laide Chapel from tumbling into the sea. After competing the stabilisation of Laide Chapel LEAF went on to purchase Laide Wood for the community.
In 2001 LEAF members voted again to extend the Company’s operating area in order to meet demand for its services from the neighbouring community of Gairloch. LEAF members decided it would make sense for LEAF to cover the whole Highland Council Ward of Gairloch which covered the communities of Kinlochewe in the east, Badcaul in the North and Gairloch in the South. This area was a recognised Parish and a cohesive community and an obvious and natural step for LEAF’s expansion.
No longer just serving the Loch Ewe communities it was time to change the company’s name to reflect its wider operating area. Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum, GALE was born. In fact a whole new company was formed to reflect these changes and the old LEAF was wound up with all its assets and liabilities passed to GALE and LEAF’s Board of Directors became the GALE Board of Directors.
One of the first projects the newly formed GALE undertook was to take over the management of Gairloch Tourist Information Centre (TIC). Although located in the village of Gairloch the TIC serves the whole Gairloch and Loch Ewe area and has proved an important asset to the whole community.
Within the TIC GALE opened the first community owned shop in the area. With this shop came increased challenges but also a significantly increase turnover for GALE. Along with its other projects the shop has been a key catalyst to enabling GALE to become a fully self-financing, entirely community owned and managed company and social enterprise.
GALE continues to increase the scale and scope of its projects and has a growing and supportive membership who make it all happen.