Skye community completes forest buy out

A community group in Skye are now the proud owners of almost 4.5million square metres of forest, after a successful bid to purchase the land from the government.

Sleat Community Trust first announced plans to purchase Tolmore Forest in 2009 following the Forestry Commission’s confirmation that the plot was to be sold.

After securing funds of £330,000 from both private and public sources, the Trust officially took ownership of the forest at a ceremony last Wednesday (27 July).

Speaking at the ceremony, the Trust’s secretary Henry Mains, thanked all those who offered both financial and physical support to the bid and hailed the day as a milestone for local history, adding: “For the first time ever the community will own the land where we live.”

On plans for the forest, Mr Mains said: “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.”

The Trust – which is managed by a team of 16 multi-skilled local directors on behalf of some 470 members in the wider community – claim that community ownership of Tormore Forest will provide a wide range of benefits to both the local community and the wider public. Ownership offers the means to generate income, it says, with the valuable timber harvest able to meet the growing local demand for firewood.

Likewise, it will offer a secure source of woodchip for Sleat Renewables woodfuel business and will provide a supply of sawlogs which will be sold on to generate income fund further improvements in the Sleat peninsula.

Cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, Alex Neil MSP, was on hand to official deliver the forest.

He said: “The Scottish government is committed to community empowerment and we believe that sustainable solutions for rural Scotland should emerge from rural communities themselves.

“This project is testament to the hard work and determination of the local community working together to secure ownership of Tormore Forest.

Under the auspices of the Trust, I am sure the forest will remain a keystone of the community and will bring a sense of pride for generations to come.”

Funding came from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, Scottish Investment Fund, Highland Opportunity, Triodos Bank, the Tudor Trust and the Co-operative Fund as well as from the community itself, which raised over £16,500.

Sam Plester

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie