Community land buy-out still an option for smelter estate
‘ALL DOORS remain open’ was the message from Lochaber smelter’s new owners this week as they moved forward with plans for the estate, despite fears a community buy- out was off the table.
GFG Alliance unveiled plans to wake the 114,000-acre ‘sleeping giant’ estate neighbouring the Fort William smelter last week, as it announced a new property arm for the company.
The launch of a new company, JAHAMA, was described as a ‘pivotal project’ in GFG Alliance’s economic redevelopment around Fort William, which includes building a large scale alloy wheels manufacturing plant. The company said JAHAMA would be heavily involved with plans for the estate which could be used for renewable energy, outdoor sports, tourist facilities, forestry and new agricultural activity. But the news left people questioning what it would mean for East Lochaber and Laggan Communtiy Trust which has been trying to buy the land for the community. Speaking to the
Lochaber Times, East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust chairman John Hutchison said that he could understand why people felt confused and said: ‘We look forward to meeting with GFG Alliance as soon as possible and note that doors remain open for any options.
‘Our 1,200 members are aware of the undertaking GFG Alliance has given to the Scottish Government to enter into significant community land transactions and we look forward to learning how that undertaking fits with the development of JAHAMA Highland Estates.’
The new company will be led by former chief operating officer of the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate Duncan Mackison.
Mr Mackison, who will also act as general ambassador for the GFG Alliance in Scotland, will lead discussions with the Scottish Government, local authorities, public sector agencies and local communities to develop major industrial, agricultural and recreational projects for the Alliance. He said: ‘I am looking forward to this challenge be- cause we have an opportunity to create an exemplar for the running of a large Highland estate combining traditional rural activity with sustainable industrial activity. We also want to build on the excellent level of partnership with government, public agencies and communities that has not been seen before on this scale.’ When asked by the Lochaber
Times if the new company would mean a community buy- out was no longer an option, Jay Hambro chief investment officer for the GFG Alliance, said: ‘ We have appointed an experienced chief executive to lead the development of JAHAMA Highland Estates and to strengthen our engagement with local communities and other stakeholders in evolving plans and ideas for the future use of the estate lands at Lochaber. Our position hasn’t changed. We are committed to working with all stakeholders, including local communities, to achieve the best and most productive use of the estate lands for the benefit of everyone involved. We have not closed the door on any option.’