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June 15, 2011

Sleat success

Some communities always seem to be making the news.  No sooner had Sleat Community Trust successfully purchased 1000 acres of woodland in the Tormore Forest in south Skye, then they hear they have been awarded the highest award given to voluntary groups for outstanding work in their communities.   This all comes on the back of several other notable successes – one of which has been to grow its membership to 500 which represents  80% of population

Sleat Community Trust have double cause for celebration. On 1st June they took over the ownership of 1,000 acre of Forestry Commission woodland in south Skye and on 2nd June the Trust was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

The Trust has been discussing potential joint projects with the Forestry Commission in Tormore Forest for many years including the development of native woodland, trails for walkers and bikers and education facilities for local children. When the forest was officially put on the open market, Sleat Community Trust registered an interest and then had 18 months to raise the funds.

Chris Marsh, who lives in Sleat, has been appointed Community Forester. Overall management is through Sleat Renewables Ltd a subsidiary of the Trust. Mr Marsh said “This gives Sleat not only ownership of its first large area of land, but also control over an important community asset. For the first few years, work will inevitably focus on the extraction of some of the mature timber to help cover our current costs, in order to develop a number social projects which will enhance the area and create local jobs.”

Local fundraising asked for sponsorship for each acre of ground and various agencies and banks provided loans and grants. These included Social Investment Scotland, Triodos Bank, Highland Opportunities, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Tudor Trust, Highland Council and the people of Sleat and beyond.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Just after the official purchase of the woods, Sleat Community Trust was officially notified of the receipt of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK for outstanding work done in their local communities.

Duncan MacInnes, who recently stepped down from the Board as Chair and Vice-chair, said “We are delighted with, and honoured by, this award. It is a big thank you to everyone in Sleat who has been active in the Trust and supported it in many ways. The Trust has developed a close working relationship with local landlords, our Community Council, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic College and other community groups. Collectively this is creating a bright sustainable future for Sleat.”

The Sleat Community Trust has almost 500 local members, which is 80 percent of the adult population. Their achievements include purchasing the local filling station and garage in 2007 with Big Lottery funding, and taking over the management of one of Sleat’s two post offices in 2009. Sleat Renewables set up a woodchip supply and is collating information for a possible community wind turbine.

The Trust’s ‘Clean Sleat’ project has supported energy reduction and house insulation schemes, provided a community log-splitter, an infra-red camera and other equipment. It encourages development of community and individual vegetable growing with a rotovator. Sleat’s Great Bike Week has worked with local school children to make cycling more common and safer.