THE first steps have been made towards a community buy-out of a tiny Inner Hebridean island worth around £4.25 million.

An application to purchase the Isle of Ulva and its associated holdings at Ulva Ferry on the mainland of Mull was put forward in May by the North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) after it emerged that the island was to be put on the market.

That application has now been validated, meaning any sale has been put on hold until a decision on whether or not to proceed is made by Scottish ministers.

Ulva is situated off the western coast of Mull, spans 7.5 miles by 2.5 miles and has just 16 residents. It is very remote, with no tarmac roads, pubs or shops, and is only accessible by ferry.

The current owner of Ulva is Jamie Howard, who inherited the island in 2014. On his behalf, estate agents Knight Frank are said to be looking for offers of around £4.25m.

The submitted application for the buy-out states its overall aim is to manage the estate “to provide sustainable benefits for the community in the short to medium term and in the long term for future generations including the repopulation of the island”.

It continues: “This sale marks a crossroads in the history of Ulva and North West Mull and provides a golden opportunity to ensure the survival and bolster the development of a fragile and remote community, enabling a vibrant and sustainable future for generations to come.”

“Sustainable community benefit is dependent on more people living and working year round on the island itself and the way to achieve this is for the land to be owned and managed by the community.”

It is the first step on a long process in the ambitions of the local community to acquire the island.

The NWMCWC initially raised a petition in May which displayed substantial support throughout North West Mull for an application to be made under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

Local residents decided they should seize upon the potential for repopulation on the island, as well as the chance for increased economic activity in the area.

A feasibility study will be carried out over the coming weeks in order to help prepare a detailed business plans and management strategy for the buy-out. This includes a consultation process with the local community.

The NWMCWC was established in 2006 and is a community company that seeks to promote sustainable community ownership. Membership with the company is open to all residents of North West Mull — an area that encompasses Ulva.

The move by the NWMCWC is reminiscent of when the residents of the Isle of Eigg — a small island south of Skye — successfully bought their island under a community buy-out, which last month celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

Their purchase was completed in 1997 following a number of issues with absentee landlords. Funds of £1.5m were raised with support from the public — a move that would be termed “crowdfunding” nowadays — along with the Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise contributed with a grant of £17,000.

The population of the island has since grown from 64 to more than 100 and the economy has benefitted from increased tourism as well as the creation of new businesses, including a brewery.

Since the community buy-out, islanders have started working towards generating the majority of their electricity from renewable sources.