The Scottish Land Fund is helping four enterprising communities in the Highlands to take ownership of local land.
Plans to develop Scotland’s first Geopark have received a welcome Scottish Land Fund investment of £54,000.
Scourie Community Development Company will use the funding to purchase 1.76 hectares of land known as the Doctor’s Park located in Scourie, Sutherland. Once in community ownership, the company plans to build a Geocentre Visitor attraction as a focal point for the wider North West Highlands Geopark. This will house the locally renowned Shelley Collection of rocks, minerals and gemstones and will become an educational resource for visiting schools and universities, while contributing to the local economy.
Scourie Community Development Company Ltd Chairman, Neil MacDonald, said: “This Scottish Land Fund award is excellent news and will allow us to move forward in partnership with North West Highlands Geopark Ltd. Our ambitious plan to build an exhibition centre and community hub will be a fantastic asset to the North West Highlands, with the world-class Shelley Collection being displayed to its full potential.”
Meanwhile in Lochaber, the Morvern Community Development Company has been awarded £127,000 to purchase two plots of land in Lochaline on the Morvern peninsula under the National Forest Land Scheme. The plots will be developed to provide sites for new affordable housing, visitor accommodation and a heritage centre/gift shop in the centre of the village, to meet the needs of this remote rural community.
The Stratherrick and Foyers Community Trust Ltd has been awarded £28,200 to purchase 2.22 hectares of land adjacent to Riverside, Lower Foyers, Inverness-shire. Ownership will empower the community to lead and control the management and development of the land to provide an area of green-space within the village for social, recreational and sporting activities that will help contribute to the health and well-being of the community.
Also in Inverness-shire, the Glengarry Community Woodlands group have been awarded £224,000 will purchase Glengarry Wood and the former Forestry Commission Depot at Invergarry, under the National Forest Land Scheme bringing 30 hectares of woodland into community ownership. This will enable the community to become fully involved in managing the woodland, encouraging wider access for recreation and education, and developing business opportunities which will bring benefits to the whole community.
Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair, John Watt, said: “These projects are excellent examples of how local communities can transform ambition into reality. From a dynamic forestry buyout in Aberdeenshire to the creation of a valuable tourist attraction in Scourie, these awards will help to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits for generations to come. Each of today’s seven successful groups has worked hard to get to this point and I wish them all every success as they take forward their innovative plans.”
The First Minister announced in her Programme for Government that the Scottish Land Fund will be increased to £10 million from 2016-20.
Ailsa Raeburn, head of Community Assets from HIE, said: “The latest round of awards from the Scottish Land Fund will help the Highland communities bring land into community ownership. Acquiring the land will give communities the resources and control they need to deliver some really exciting projects for the benefit of the people living in and visiting the areas. We are looking forward to working with them in the future to help them realise their ambitions.”