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March 31, 2010

Where there’s a will…..

The National Forest Land Scheme was heralded as the perfect opportunity for communities to acquire and develop forestry land.  But land costs money and a weakness of this scheme has been the absence of earmarked funding to make it happen. Undaunted, the community of Kilfinan are playing the long game. Originally intent on buying 1100 acres, they have just hit their fundraising target – £130,000 -to buy a third of the land they want. They plan to come back for the rest later

The Background
The Kilfinan project began in 2005 with the launch of the National Forest Land Scheme. The community recognised the need to increase local self sufficiency in the area by providing the opportunities for jobs, training, homes and in developing the basic resources in harnessing the forest resource and give opportunities for our young people to live and work here.

National Forest Land Scheme
In 2008 we successfully applied to buy 1100 acres of the forest through the National Forest Land Scheme. However, due to the lack of clear government funding we have finally negotiated to buy a smaller area of 312 acres (125ha) by March 2010. Community interest will be held on the remaining area for the next 5 years. We will then be able to demonstrate how this forest resource can help bring jobs, develop training opportunities, offer woodland crofts and smallholdings to help attract and retain young people and families who wish to live and work in the area.

Our Community
Our community is suffering from underemployment and jobs to keep young people here and inflated house prices which mean that local people cannot afford to buy a home which, in turn, affects the future viability of our school and vital community services.

Acquiring and developing this community forest is a way of allowing us and others to thrive in this very beautiful part of the world.

Development of the Forest Resource
Development of the forest will allow employment in woodland management and in the installation of recreational infrastructure. The forest will also generate vast amounts of timber for woodfuel and construction materials such as sheds, huts, timber-framed houses and kennels to name a few – anything really!

Jobs & Employment
A Project Development Manager will be in post to coordinate the activities required for the first 5 years supported by a project administrator. Initially these posts will be funded by Rural Priorites, thereafter, income from ongoing woodland management and timber sales will generate income to employ staff.

An application to the Climate Challenge Fund has been submitted for a Carbon Reduction Officer for the first year to help set up the allotments, community composting site and to provide help advice and support to the community on how to access help to make their homes more fuel-efficient. The bid also includes the purchase of the doctors surgery in the village. This helps to bring the products and services in the forest right into the heart of the village.

Carbon Clinics
Regular Carbon Reduction Clinics will support the community in making the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable woodfuel, offer a car-sharing hub and free advice and support to make our homes more fuel-efficient.

Training and Work
The set up of a training and skills development initiative will generate up to 2 full-time jobs and 6 traineeships in forest management and timber processing. Discussions are ongoing with UHI and Argyll College to link with current training needs and requirements.

Community ownership of this forest will allow us to develop the forest to tackle a range of problems in the area. We can create training and all-year-round employment in forest management and in timber products. Good quality and local woodfuel will be available and delivered to heat our homes. Long or short walks and orienteering and mountain biking will attract more visitors and encourage more people to the area and keep us healthy! Community allotments will provide good organic produce and crofting allows the chance to self-build a home, start a family and build a business.

Currently lack of employment, limited amenities and access to affordable housing all stack up to limít the prospects for families wishing to live or stay here. This compromises our local school, post office, shops and our future. Essentially we need to attract and retain more people to come and live here and be part of this community.

Our future can only become more reliant on its local resources. If people have access to land for growing food, the forest for fuel and building materials, the open hill for deer and wind and the rivers and burns for water and power – we will be building a resilient future as custodians of our local environment for our children to inherit.

The Kilfinan Community comprises the settlements and people of Ardlamont, Kames, Kilfinan, Millhouse, Otter Ferry, Portavadie and Tighnabruaich.