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April 27, 2010

Community ownership can become addictive

Sleat Community Trust was originally set up to deal with the community benefit payments from a proposed wind farm. The wind farm never happened but that didn’t stop the Trust.  A house for rent, a garage and petrol pump, a post office and visitor services have all since been taken into community ownership. There’s no stopping them now on the asset acquisition trail

Neil Macphail, Press and Journal

Residents of Sleat on Skye have backed a plan to bring 1,000 acres of woodland currently owned by Forestry Commission Scotland into community ownership.

Highland Council, who conducted the ballot on behalf of Sleat Community Trust, announced that 90% of those who voted were in favour of supporting the trust in pursuing the buyout.

The ballot took place for three weeks in March and more than 700 registered voters in the area were supplied with voting cards.

Following the closure of the ballot on March 31 it was reported that 70% of those eligible took part in the vote.

Tormore Forest lies near the main village of Ardvasar at Sleat and is currently valued at £330,000.

This result will allow the trust to develop a business plan which they hope will assist them in finding capital for the purchase and offer a realistic vision for using and developing the land under community ownership.

Trust chairman Angus Venters said: “This is a fantastic result for the community and the trust. Such a positive result will give us the confidence to develop proposals for Tormore Forest under community ownership.

“This is yet another example of the strength of cohesion in the community and I would like to thank them for their support.”

This is not the first time the trust has taken a lead on similar community developments.

In 2007 it secured a house for rent, the local garage, fuel and visitor services, and has recently acquired the post office, all community assets that could have been lost.

Sleat Renewables Ltd established a wood-chip supply for the Gaelic College. It is investigating a community turbine and created the ‘Clean Sleat’ project to reduce carbon emissions.

It is investigating a community turbine and created the Clean Sleat project to reduce carbon emissions.

It is hoped that a community purchase of Tormore can generate local employment and provide a sustained income stream to the community through the sale of timber products.

Land could also be improved by introducing open spaces and biodiversity, and recreational facilities created for children and families.

Under the terms of the national forest land scheme, Sleat Community Trust now have until March 2011 to source the funds to proceed with the purchase.

Over 70% of the community are members, supporting a wide variety of projects. Over 40 people are active in 9 groups; two limited companies have been formed and 5.5 jobs created.