Community ownership of a former town reservoir in Newburgh, Fife and a parcel of land in the centre of Black Isle village, Culbokie will now be made possible, thanks to funding announced today (23 March) from the Scottish Land Fund.
The funding, totalling £148,616, marks an important milestone for the Culbokie Community Trust in the Highlands and the Newburgh Community Trust in Fife, both of which will now be able to purchase locally important pieces of land under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.
Over 45,000 people in 32 communities are now benefiting from land bought with help from the Scottish Land Fund.
This means total funding of over £6.5 million capital and £850,000 revenue has been awarded since June 2012 – helping the equivalent of one community a month achieve their goal of owning the land they live and work on.
The First Minister and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead marked these figures with a visit to Aigas Community Forest which is run by the local community as a working forest that provides economic, social and environmental benefits to the local area and residents.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The land and people who form part of a community can often be its best and most valuable assets. Owning their land can help realise their aspirations and dreams, make a real difference to long term sustainability and build stronger, resilient and supportive communities.
“As Aigas Community Forest shows, when land is locally owned and managed for the good of the community, people reap the benefits. That’s why I am pleased that an average of one community a month has been helped to buy land since the land fund opened – with two more communities now set to follow in these footsteps thanks to today’s announcement.
“These figures show this government’s land reform agenda is helping communities in tackling inequalities - that’s why I’m pleased we’ve committed to £10 million a year from 2016 to help more communities purchase land.
“Together with the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, our proposed dedicated resource within the Scottish Government to promote and facilitate land ownership across the whole of Scotland, and further legislative proposals, this will help more communities realise the dream of owning their land.”
Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair, John Watt, said: “The Scottish Land Fund committee was highly impressed with each of the bids put forward by these two enterprising community trusts. Currently without a village square or community hub, today’s Scottish Land Fund grant will put the heart firmly into the village of Culbokie while boosting prospects for future housing and enterprising opportunities. In Fife, the funding will protect an area of natural beauty while creating new social and recreational opportunities for local people. I wish both groups every success as they go on to make their dreams a reality using the Community Right to Buy scheme.”
Plans to create a new village square in the heart of Culbokie have been boosted by a £96,691 Scottish Land Fund award. Culbokie Community Trust will purchase a half-hectare of land at Glascairn in the centre of the village to be developed as a focal point and gathering place for community activities and events. This will also provide space for a community cafe, flexible business units, car parking, and six small bungalows.
Penny Edwards, Chair, Culbokie Community Trust, said: “The Trust is over the moon with this Scottish Land Fund award, which brings our dream for a new village centre a little closer. The new facilities that are proposed include a village square with a café, health rooms and sheltered housing which will benefit everyone and especially those who, for various reasons, don’t use a private car. The project will put a new ‘beating heart’ in the village and it will become a focal point for village life. It has already brought people together for a common purpose and now that we are in position to purchase the land we look forward to engaging even more with the community and bringing the project to fruition.”
In Fife, the people of Newburgh and the surrounding area will be able to take ownership of the former town reservoir at Lochmill and associated woodland and grazing site, thanks to an award of £51,925. As well as protecting the area – which extends to 25.92 hectares - as a tourist destination and area of natural beauty, the Trust will look to improve amenities so as to provide new recreational and education opportunities for local people.
Andrew Arbuckle chair of Newburgh Community Trust, said “Local residents will be delighted by this Scottish Land Fund decision. The 95% vote in support of the purchase provided the strongest possible evidence of how valued the loch is to those living in the area. With this support, Newburgh Community Trust will look after this part of its heritage so that it can continue to be enjoyed as a wonderfully secluded and beautiful natural recreational area.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:“Land reform has already delivered significant benefits to rural communities across Scotland. How we manage rights over land in Scotland determines the benefits our land can bring to our economy and our communities, as we can see from examples such as Aigas Community Forest.
“Many communities across Scotland are already benefitting from owning their own land. I’m pleased that residents of Newburgh, Fife and the Black Isle village of Culbokie will be the latest to benefit from the Scottish Land Fund, which will allow them to realise their dreams of bringing land under community control and deliver the wider aspirations of their communities.
“We want to build on this progress and that’s why we’ve recently consulted on a number of proposals to improve the fairness of our system of land ownership in Scotland and will bring forward legislation in the Land Reform Bill in this parliament.”
The First Minister announced in her Programme for Government that the Scottish Land Fund will be increased to £10 million from 2016-20.