Com­mu­nity land buy-out still an op­tion for smelter es­tate

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

‘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.’

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