Inchree land buy-out in public meet­ing spot­light

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

A COM­MU­NITY buy-out of land at Inchree, Onich, is on the cards.

Nether Lochaber Com­mu­nity Coun­cil (NLCC) hosted a public meet­ing at the week­end to dis­cuss the com­mu­nity buy­ing two ar­eas of land owned by Lochaber Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (LHA) and Forestry Com­mis­sion Scot­land (FCS).

Around 50 peo­ple, in­clud­ing MSP Kate Forbes and coun­cil­lor and chief ex­ec­u­tive of LHA Blair Al­lan, at­tended the meet­ing chaired by coun­cil­lor An­drew Bax­ter. A sur­vey to gauge in­ter­est in the com­mu­nity buy- out was dis­trib­uted to 240 houses; a third were handed back with only one in 12 re­port­ing con­cerns.

Chair­man of NLCC Iain Jen­ner told the Lochaber Times: ‘ While there are nat­u­rally a num­ber of con­cerns over our com­mu­nity po­ten­tially buy­ing out LHA and FCS land and build­ings at Inchree, over traf­fic vol­umes, fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity and public li­a­bil­ity, for ex­am­ple, I would say the re­sponse was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive.

The meet­ing fin­ished on a note of cau­tious en­thu­si­asm.

‘Ques­tions about the fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, how much the com­mu­nity can be in­volved and how much sup­port the govern­ment would give were ad­dressed.’

While no plans for the land are set in stone, sug­ges­tions for the LHA area, which is around 14 hectares, in­clude it be­ing used for graz­ing, cropped silage or a ‘pick your own’ scheme to gen­er­ate in­come. There was also in­ter­est for free range hens to pro­duce eggs or a fruit farm. An al­lot­ment scheme to ser­vice South Lochaber was also dis­cussed.

The FCS as­set in­cludes build­ings, one of which is al­ready ten­anted by busi­ness Ver­ti­cal De­scents, which would be­come a com­mu­nity ten­ant.

The other build­ing is derelict and would need re­de­vel­oped.

Mr Jen­ner said it could be a vis­i­tor hub and cafe with toi­lets and show­ers or a work­shop for com­mu­nity use. An area of wood­land un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion could po­ten­tially house a mi­cro-hy­dro scheme to power the build­ings. ‘ We are push­ing against an open door. The govern­ment, LHA and FCS are sup­port­ive of a com­mu­nity buy­out,’ said Mr Jen­ner. ‘The next stage is to con­vene a steer­ing group to form a busi­ness plan and in­ves­ti­gate the ideas and look at the most vi­able op­tion.’

NLCC would seek fund­ing from the Scot­tish Land Fund which ear­marks money for com­mu­ni­ties to buy- out ar­eas of land.

Ms Forbes said leg­is­la­tion has pro­vided com­mu­nity groups with ‘un­prece­dented pow­ers to take over lo­cal as­sets’, with a £10mil­lion bud­get in the Land Fund to as­sist with the pur­chase and de­vel­op­ment of these as­sets.

She said: ‘I am de­lighted to see com­mu­ni­ties like Nether Lochaber tak­ing an ac­tive in­ter­est in what they can do with the land on their door step.’

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