4th Islands Forum: Housing Takes Center Stage at the UK Islands Forum

On 8 May 2024, island communities across the United Kingdom came together at the fourth annual Island Forum to discuss critical housing challenges. The forum was organized by Ynys Môn/Isle of Anglesey County Council on the beautiful Isle of Anglesey in Wales.

At the event, Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove led the discussion. The debate was attended by local MP Virginia Crosby and representatives from member councils across the UK, along with ministers and representatives from the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments.

The discussion focused on the many unique housing challenges that island communities face. These included limited land, expensive construction and lack of transport connectivity.

4th Islands Forum

Island Housing: A Complex Landscape

The forum acknowledged that it is difficult to get housing to live on the island. Due to many difficulties, building houses on the island is becoming expensive and the cost of construction is increasing due to remoteness and transportation problems.

In addition, as the attractiveness of island living has increased, the demand for vacation rentals has also increased. As a result, the number of available houses is decreasing and it is becoming difficult for the locals to get houses.

Collaborative Solutions Take Root

This forum was not just to identify problems, but to find solutions. Attendees shared many innovative practices already implemented in various island communities. From using expanded council powers to deal with empty and second homes to working with local development trusts to build new housing units, the spirit of collaboration was evident everywhere.

Funding the Future

The main objective of the scheme is to promote housing and island regeneration by making appropriate use of UK Government funding programmes. It builds on earlier successful initiatives, including the establishment of the “Connectivity Task” and the “Finnish Group”. This resulted in £1.6 million in funding to improve vital transport links for island communities.

Investing in Green Innovation

The forum recently announced that islands will play a key role in the UK’s green energy projects. A good example of this commitment is the award of £3 million over two years to the world-renowned Orkney-based European Marine Energy Center (EMEC).

EMEC is a pioneer in testing wave and tidal energy technologies and is now also playing a key role in the development of green hydrogen. This will help put the UK at the forefront of sustainable energy solutions.

A Platform for Progress

The Islands Forum has become an invaluable platform for island communities to connect with UK and developed governments. It helps foster cooperation, knowledge sharing and a unified approach to tackling common challenges.

This year’s Forum was particularly successful, with the following delegates participating:

  • Isle of Anglesey County Council
  • Western Islands Council
  • Orkney Islands Council
  • Shetland Islands Council
  • Highland Council
  • North Ayrshire Council
  • Argyll and Bute Council
  • Isle of Wight Council
  • Isle of Scilly Council
  • Rathlin Development and Community Association

A Glimpse into Anglesey’s Future

This event wasn’t just about business! Attendees had the opportunity to visit the MSparc Science and Technology Park, where they could see the latest developments in the skills, energy and housing sectors in Anglesey.

In addition, recognizing the importance of the Welsh language, Secretary Gove experienced a tour of a virtual reality village developed by Animated Technology to learn Welsh.

The next forum is to be hosted by Argyll and Bute Council in the autumn of 2024 and the future looks bright for island communities across the UK. The Islands Forum is a robust platform for collaboration that listens to the voices of island communities and addresses their specific needs. Together, these communities pave the way for a more prosperous and sustainable future for all.

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