Published: 17/02/2017 06:00 - Updated: 16/02/2017 14:56

£273,000 boost for West Helmsdale community buy-out

Initiative to buy-out crofting land.
Initiative to buy-out crofting land.

A community bid to purchase a 3000 acre crofting estate near to Helmsdale has today received a welcome cash boost of £273,025 from the Scottish Land Fund.

The Garbh Allt Community Initiative – a new organisation set up to pursue a community buyout of the West Helmsdale Crofting Estate – have been in talks with the current owner, Sutherland Estates for some time.

The estate, which comprises the townships of Marrel, West Helmsdale, Gartymore and Portgower, has more than 20 sites of historical interest. Securing the estate’s future will allow for the development of business opportunities and will create a stream of income into the community.

Welcoming the funding, which will also allow the group to employ a part time development officer, Anne Fraser, chairwoman of the initiative, said: “We are absolutely delighted with this grant award.  The buying of the estate has been a long term goal of our community and seeing the first big step towards this happening is just great! 

“The Land League founders originated in this community and their descendants are now part of the initiative to buy back their land.  We are really proud that this is a community buy out, with everyone living here taking part.  We are now looking forward to working with Sutherland Estates to tie up the details as soon as possible to enable us to start our exciting development programme.”

Cabinet secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “This is a significant phase in the history of the area, and I am pleased that the Scottish Government can support the ambitions that this community has for their local area.  This sale is a good example of just what can be achieved through negotiated sales between landlords and community groups, and I would encourage more landowners to look into the possibilities for similar sales to community groups in the future.”

Ailsa Raeburn, head of community assets for HIE, said: “The awards made by the committee cover a really interesting range of projects across Scotland. The scale and geographic spread demonstrate the level of interest we are seeing across the country from communities of all types and sizes that recognise the importance of owning local land and buildings and how this can benefit their local area.”

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