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Forest buyout gives community a greater say in its own destiny

17 February 2011

A community-led company in the North of Scotland is celebrating the purchase of 40 hectares of land at Rumster Forest in Caithness and is now pressing forward its ambitious plans to generate sustainable income for its own residents.

Latheron Lybster and Clyth Community Development Company (LLCCDC) is managed by a team of seven multi-skilled local directors on behalf of more than 100 local members and the wider community. It has wide spread community support for plans which will look at renewable energy production, including a three turbine wind farm and forest management and harvesting. They also plan to create a network of paths for local access.

The Forestry Commission land was valued at £80,000 and the buy out has been supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which gave the company a grant of £60,000. Additional funding came from Dounreay Site Restoration and from the community which raised £10,000 itself.

Eric Larnach, Secretary of the LLCCDC, said: "We are absolutely delighted that we have reached this milestone in the project. We are grateful to HIE for its support throughout the buy out process and to Community Energy Scotland which is helping us through the practicalities of getting three wind turbines up and running within the next four years. A wind anemometer mast has already been set up to start gathering wind data.

"In the short term we will be speaking with the Forestry Commission about our plans for replanting, and hope our local school will be involved as part of their eco-school activities. In the long term we hope many areas of our community will benefit from the income we will generate, it is a great opportunity, particularly given the current economic pressures, for communities to direct their own destinies."

Iain Gunn, the Chairman of LLCCDC welcomed the purchase as a major step in implementing LLCCDC's objective of operating a three turbine wind farm in the Rumster Forest on behalf of the local community. He hoped that the land would be an amenity asset in the area as well as providing a valuable addition to Caithness's renewable energy supply and a significant income for local community projects.

HIE's community land adviser Liz Howard said: "HIE has been working with the community company throughout this process and we are delighted that we have been able to assist them to get to the point where their ambitions can be implemented. The land purchase gives them an asset which they can develop for the benefit of the 1,200 people who live in the communities of Lybster, Latheron and Clyth."

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