Knoydart is part of the mainland and yet accessible only by boat or on foot, which makes transportation costs higher than average for the mainland and increases the sense of remoteness and peripherality. The land has been in community ownership since 1999 when it was purchased on behalf of the community by the Knoydart Foundation (KF).
Since then, the population has grown from 60 to 115. The local primary school currently has 7 pupils (6 in 1999), while 6 pupils attend secondary school in Mallaig (2 in 1999).
KFT manages woodlands extending to around 8,000 hectares on behalf of KF, and carries out contract work for other local landowners. It has a legal agreement with KF which gives KFT first option to carry out forestry work within the Knoydart estate. The agreement allows KFT to retain proceeds from timber sales from the estate, which provides the basis for its firewood production and distribution business.
KFT had long-term plans to establish a woodfuel business for a number of reasons:
KFT planned to develop the market by supporting and informing customers on the peninsula to convert to woodfuel use, with the potential to extend the market to Mallaig, using landing craft returning empty to the mainland. To achieve this goal KFT needed to ensure a steady supply of consistently high quality logs, which necessitated the purchase of equipment for harvesting and processing the timber, and the construction of a woodshed in which to store and dry logs in preparation for local sale and distribution.
To streamline operations, KFT came up with an innovative solution involving the construction of wooden boxes for storing, drying and delivering the logs. KFT can store cut logs in the boxes, store the boxes in the woodshed until dry, deliver a box direct to the customer’s house, and pick up the empty box at the same time.
HIE worked with KFT in their capacity as a significant local community company within the Knoydart CAM area. KFT have a direct management agreement with KF, which is the CAM anchor organisation, and it was considered that the project contributed sufficiently to reducing fragility to warrant support from HIE. The total project costs of £142,511 involved a proportion of revenue to provide training in the wood processing machinery. HIE provided a de minimis grant of £66,012, with the remainder being secured through SRDP and KFT’s own resources.
The award was made in May 2013, the woodshed is now complete, and KFT have sold 145 cubic metres of high quality firewood with a moisture content of 25%-30%. Work is ongoing to process a supply of firewood to fill 75 wood boxes and KFT are encouraging local residents to get their orders in early – 34 of the 55 households on the peninsula are current customers, and 4 households have already substantially increased their regular order.
Actual outcomes from the financial support to date are the creation of 2 jobs and the retention of 2 jobs (3 FTE positions). Anticipated outcomes are reduced CO2 emissions of around 260 tonnes annually, an increase in the amount of locally owned and produced energy supply, and a 14% increase in turnover in the social economy generated by community-owned assets, all of which will lead to reduced fragility in one of HIE’s most peripheral communities.
Contact for further information / Tuilleadh fios bho:
Pam Noble, Tel. 01520 722024 or Ian Philp, Tel. 01520 722022