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May 6, 2009

Woodland acquisitions on the increase

A quick squint at the Forestry Commission’s website reveals a picture of growing interest from communities in buying up forestry land – some want to develop housing, others have recreational purposes in mind while others have more commercial interests.  Craignish in Argyll are just starting out on this journey, while in North Mull, the community are about to build new roads so they can get their timber to market

One community at the start of the process(Craignish) and one further down the road(North Mull)

The community of Craignish have decided that they want to acquire Salachry Forest. The community’s plans for the land have three elements

1. Create an area of Community Woodlands including:
• Replanting with native trees
• Creating new footpaths to the view points, the lochan and the archaeological sites
• Building multi-purpose tracks for bikes and horse riding
• Building a children’s play area
• Building an education centre for forest school and training courses

2. Create an area of croft land to:
• Create 6-10 new woodland crofts
• Enabling new business opportunities
• Enabling the building of affordable croft houses using local timber that will remain in community control (see Newsletter Oct 2008 for more details)

3. Set up a Social Enterprise Company (a not-for-profit company) including:
• Office space
• Production, storage and supply of wood-fuel (logs and woodchip) for households and businesses in the area
• Generating employment and an income to support the project into the future.

But before they can proceed, the community had to hold a ballot to determine there was enough support for the project from within the wider community.

The ballot has just been completed and the results are……

There were 216 ballot papers  returned from a total of 325 eligible voters – that means 66.5% of the community participated in the postal ballot. 44 people voted NO and 172 voted YES. That means 53% of the entire eligible population (including those that did not return the papers) voted YES. A staggering 79.6% of the voters want the project to go ahead – a very decisive mandate for Craignish Community Company to proceed with the proposals.  Next task is to submit proposals to the National Forest Land Scheme and wait for the Forestry’s board members decision on whether community management will offer greater economic, environmental and social benefits than it does under state ownership.

North West Mull Community Woodland Company is a community company with charitable status set up to manage Langamull and West Ardhu woodlands in the north west of the Isle of Mull. These woodlands were purchased through the National Forest Land Scheme from Forestry Commission Scotland in 2006 with the assistance of the Scottish Land Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The Robertson Trust, Hugh Fraser Foundation, significant local fundraising and an interest free loan.

Community benefits will include the provision of affordable housing, improved access, improved business opportunities and the use of the woodlands as an educational resource for the islanders.

In partnership with Argyll and Bute Council and Forest Enterprise Scotland, the community recently secured £0.75 million from the Scottish Government’s Strategic Timber Transport Scheme towards the costs of a new haul route to access their ‘landlocked’ plantations. The haul route through Glen Bellart which includes reconstructing 3km of Public Road will create an essential link into the Mull forest road network to take timber from the Langamull and West Ardhu community forests and the Forest Enterprise Scotland Glen Bellart and Killiechronan forests to market. Construction is due to start in September 2009 to enable timber extraction to begin.