The future of a historic landmark on one of the world’s most breathtaking coastlines has today been assured thanks to one of the first grants from the Scottish Land Fund. The 167 year-old Covesea Lighthouse on the Moray Firth will now be brought into community use and developed as a tourist hub. It is one of four projects, the others in Cowal, Wester Ross and the Borders, celebrating today (Friday, 22 February) as funding is announced for the first time from the new Scottish Land Fund.
Launched last year, the £6 million Scottish Land Fund is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Today’s awards of over £3/4 million means these four communities can now purchase land and assets ensuring they are able to shape their own brighter future.
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs & Environment said, “I am delighted that the Scottish Land Fund is empowering four of our rural communities in Moray Firth, Cowal, Wester Ross and the Borders to take control of their own future by helping them to acquire land and community assets. These innovative and diverse projects will bring clear long term benefits, making each community stronger, resilient and more sustainable. I would urge other communities to look at these projects – three of which are achieved through the community right to buy provisions and the National Forest Land Scheme – to see how community land ownership and funding from the Scottish Land Fund can make a real difference to them.”
Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair, John Watt, said: “We know from experience that communities can achieve great things when they own and manage local land and land assets. So I am delighted to announce this first round of funding to these four projects and look forward to seeing them develop. Land ownership helps build independent, resilient and confident communities which benefits, not only themselves, but the country as a whole. The Scottish Land Fund, with funding over three years, aims to empower more rural communities, giving them the tools and resources they need so they can achieve their plans of local sustainability.”
Covesea Lighthouse Community Company will finally achieve their dream of community ownership for Covesea Lighthouse, its two keepers' cottages and surrounding land. The grant of £301,500 means they will develop a tourism hub to promote local heritage, the area’s unique wildlife and environment and its links to the nearby airbase. The lighthouse’s location on the Moray Firth Coast has been voted one of the most breathtaking coasts in the world in a National Geographic Traveller magazine survey and community ownership presents an excellent opportunity for the project to boost the number of visitors to the area which in turn will help the local economy.
Bernard Annikin, Managing Director, Covesea Lighthouse Community Company said, “Without this funding there was a very good chance the lighthouse would have fallen into private ownership and we would have lost a vital asset for our community. When the light was switched out at Covesea a year ago we realised that here was an amazing opportunity to use this building for the benefit of all who live locally. We will now be able to use this site to provide a wide range of recreational activities from photography, painting, plane spotting and dolphin watching. Educational events and activities will be developed so people will have the chance to learn about local maritime history and the stunning natural environment that surrounds them.”
“The commanding position of the Lighthouse will offer an additional source of interest in attracting an even greater number of visitors to the area and will further enhance their enjoyment and understanding of the area and ultimately contribute to the economy of the local businesses in Lossiemouth and beyond, an area largely dependent on tourism”
A grant of £311,500 to Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust has meant they can buy the 615 hectare Stronafian Forest next to Colintraive and Glendaruel communities in south-west Cowal, Argyll. The community owned and managed site will be used to create new business opportunities with the development of woodland crofts and a wood fuel business, and provide employment in forest management and related activities. The local tourist economy will get a boost with new facilities for walking, mountain biking, pony trekking and star gazing. Access to cultural, historical and archaeological sites in the area will also be improved.
Achiltibuie is a remote crofting and fishing community in the Coigach area of Wester Ross. Thanks to today’s Scottish Land Grant of £160,700 the Coigach Community Development Company can purchase Achiltibuie Smokehouse land and buildings and ensure community control of any future development. Ownership of the land and buildings presents significant potential business growth and employment opportunities for the area. Plans have still to be finalised but it is envisaged that the site will be designed to provide a flexible space accommodating food and tourism industries.
Midlem in the Borders lies between St Boswells and Selkirk with the majority of its properties grouped around the village green. Today’s grant of £14,877 allows Midlem Village Hall Committee to purchase an area of land behind Midlem Village Hall. The Hall is the focus of social and community events in the village and is well used. There are no level playing fields in the village and the plan is to use the additional land to create a patio area suitable for a wide variety of sports and activities which will generate additional income to improve the long-term sustainability of the hall.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is delivering the Scottish Land Fund in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund, said: "Highlands and Islands Enterprise is delighted to be playing a part in delivering the Scottish Land Fund, along with our colleagues in Big Lottery Fund Scotland. These first four grants, each for very different projects, will empower these community groups and help them to determine their own futures. This announcement is only the beginning of the journey for these groups and for the Land Fund itself.”