Residents in Skye are racing against the clock as they pull together the final parts of a funding package which will allow them to buy a massive 440 hectares of Sleat woodland for their community.
The Sleat Community Trust (SCT) must secure £336,000 before the month is out and Highlands and Islands Enterprise is the latest to invest in the project with a £72,000 grant.
Community ownership of Tormore Forest will provide a wide range of benefits to both the local community and the wider public, offering the means to generate income which can be used for community development projects.
The Trust is managed by a team of 12 multi-skilled local directors on behalf of around 450 members and the wider community. It has wide spread community support for a number of plans which will improve amenities in the Sleat peninsula.
Henry Main is Secretary of the Trust and says that the group is optimistic about putting the final pieces of the funding package together. "We are delighted to be so close to achieving what many people in the community have worked towards and supported for so long. For the first time ever the community will own the land where we live.
"In the first three years we will be harvesting the timber to open up the wood. As well as the replanting of native species we will also be looking at how to offer pathways for access for both local people and visitors."
He added: "We are extremely grateful to all those individuals who have given generously to help us meet our target for community fundraising, and there is still time to make a donation via our web-site; www.tormore.org "
The valuable timber harvested will meet the growing demand locally for firewood, a secure source of woodchip for Sleat Renewables woodfuel business, and a supply of sawlogs will be sold on to generate income for further community benefit. The project will provide new employment and recreational opportunities for the people of Sleat.
Pam Noble of HIE 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 another step closer to achieving their ambitions. The purchase of the forest will give the people of Sleat an asset which they can develop for the benefit of the whole community long into the future."
Additional funding has come from Highland Council, Scottish Investment Fund, Highland Opportunity, as well as from the community itself which has so far raised £16,500.