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October 18, 2011

Live the dream

Who hasn’t occasionally dreamt of escaping to the Good Life?  To have enough land to live off in a beautiful part of the country, an opportunity to build your own environmentally sustainable home within a community of like-minded people. That’s what’s on offer to anyone prepared to take the first step towards establishing Scotland’s first Transition Crofting Township. Land has been found on the Kintyre peninsula for between 10 – 15 new crofts

Acorn Co-op are looking for people interested in a pioneering project that will provide ordinary (and extraordinary!) people with an opportunity to live securely and sustainably on and from the land, run a small business, build a house, grow food and live among like-minded people on the West Coast of Scotland. 

We are an Industrial and Provident Society (a particular kind of co-op that can issue loan stock). The co-op will borrow money (loan stock) from its members and supporters to buy land and create a number of new crofts and an area of ‘Common Grazing’. The co-op will then lease the crofts to its members. 

The leases will remove the ‘Right to Buy’ ensuring the land stays communally owned for ever, and thus remains affordable to future tenants. Co-op members will be both tenants and landlord. Each croft will be financially independent but the common grazing will be shared and managed communally. A croft tenancy is for life and with the agreement of the co-op can be passed on to the next generation.

The loans will be repaid from croft rents and other income generated by the co-op (e.g. feed in tariffs from solar panels; running educational courses). The loans will be repaid with interest if required. (When issuing loan stock, a choice of interest rates is usually offered; some investors will accept a lower rate to support a project they believe in.) Once the loans are repaid the croft rents will be very low. 

We have found a suitable farm for sale on the Kintyre peninsula, Argyll, large enough to create 10-15 new crofts and are looking for people interested in joining us. We want the crofts to be run organically and we are Permaculture fans.

In order to finance the farm purchase and other start-up costs each croft household will be responsible for raising around £30,000 of loan stock. This could come from savings or from friends or relatives, but not from a loan secured on the land. We will repay loans from non-resident supporters first, but eventually all loans will be repaid and rents can then be minimal. 

Of course crofters still have to finance building a house, but with a creative approach such as cob-building, or building with local timber and recycled materials, we believe costs for a modest home can be kept low. Crofters are also eligible to apply to the Crofter’s Commission for a discretionary grant towards the cost of building a house – £11,500 in this location. We are in discussions with Argyll & Bute planning department to ensure they will support our plans.

Obviously this model can be varied to suit different local and financial circumstances, so please get in touch if you are interested but don’t think you could raise £30,000. Bare land or woodland would be much cheaper than a farm but we believe that converting an existing farm is more acceptable to our local planners. 

So there you have it! An opportunity to live securely and sustainably on and from the land among like-minded people in the first ‘Transition Crofting Township’, all for the loan of half the price of a ‘normal’ building plot (and a good deal of your time and effort of course!) 

If you are interested in an Acorn Co-operative croft, or want to learn more, please contact or ring Chrissie on 01852-500684.

Acorn Co-operative – If it’s not fun it’s not sustainable!