Community Purchase of Forest Land
The community has been discussing the possibility of purchasing forest land on and off since 1996, so that the land could be managed for more local benefit and environmental improvements. However, purchase was not possible until 2005 when the National Forest Land Scheme was launched. This gave communities the right to buy nationally owned Forest land, provided certain conditions were met.
The idea of woodland crofts also appeared on the scene about this time, and in subsequent years crofting legislation changes made the idea a possibility. In 2006 the Trust carried out a questionnaire to gauge opinion in the community. At this time information on the forest was also sought from the Forestry Commission land agents.
The Trust waited until the crofting reform legislation had gone through, so that we knew what the possibilities were, and then started looking into the National Forest Lands Scheme process.
It was decided that a feasibility study was needed, partly for our own information, and partly to provide a case to back up the application. Lottery funding was obtained for this and Shona MacLennan was employed as a consultant in 2009 to do the work.
The study was broken into several sections, each one determining to some extent the direction of the next. Stage 1 was titled “Needs and Aspirations” and gathered data to assess the current situation in the community. Stage 2, “Options Appraisal” set out some possibilities of ways to address the needs and aspirations. The options looked at included management of woodland by the community, a common grazing style joint management, woodland crofts, affordable housing, and the status quo.
A micro hydro scheme had also been suggested as a way of providing an income stream for the Trust. It would also help address our carbon footprint and future energy security.
Public meetings were held over the winter of 2009/10 (stage 3), generating much discussion and a lot of ideas were put forward. Stage 4 was the development of one of the options from stage 2. It was decided to concentrate on community management of the forest land.
Crofts were controversial and there were a lot of unknowns with the new legislation. It was decided to leave them for the time being and watch woodland croft developments in other communities. The idea could be resurrected in future if desired, after woodland purchase. Affordable housing was seen to be needed in the area, but there was not an obvious or appropriate site in South Strome Forest. The need may be addressed elsewhere, such as in the Strome development.
As part of Stage 4, a brief desktop study was done to see if the hydro scheme might be worth pursuing, and it looked very promising, although it would have to be sited carefully to minimize impacts.
The next stage at the time of writing (May 2010) is a feasibility study into the hydro scheme, and negotiations are taking place with Community Energy Scotland. After that, the land purchase application process will involve a valuation, a formal application with consultation, and a community ballot conducted by Highland Council. Then we’ll have to raise the money!
The Fernaig Community Trust were very pleased to announce that The Lottery gave the Trust £6,000 to carry out a Feasibility Study on an Achmore Hydro Scheme.
Simon Munro, the consulting engineer, visited The Glen on Wednesday 21st December 2011 to begin his work for the hydro feasibility study. Initial impressions were good and he couldn’t see there being any obstacles to a scheme being viable. His next step is to consult with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish National Heritage (SNH) and other statutory bodies.
From all the information he gathered he came up with recommendations which he presented in a draft document, for comment, which will then become the final study. This draft document was presented by Simon to the members of the Trust at a public meeting in Achmore Hall, August2012
Simon will also be investigating the possibilities of improving the water supplies to the residents of The Glen.
If, in the meantime you have any questions regarding this study please contact a director of the Trust (click here for contact details)