Am Bratach No. 217
The people of Assynt have failed to achieve sufficient local support to buy Ledmore Forest to create woodland crofts. The 1,038 hectare forest is owned by the Forestry Commission Scotland, which wants to sell it as part of its repositioning programme.
The Assynt Foundation has tried
but failed to mount a buy-out through the National Forest Land
Scheme, which allows communities to express interest in buying
Forestry Commission land. Over last winter it ran a feasibility
study, which looked into the history of land use at Ledmore and
explored what local people think should happen there in future,
concluding that there was substantial interest in taking over
the forest, with a view to supporting existing crofters, creating
new woodland crofts and generating a local wood fuel supply.
Once news of the failure was
made public, it became clear that around 25% of the community
had not been given the opportunity to vote, because the ballot,
run by Highland Council, used only the edited version of the
Electoral Roll, excluding those people who opt to avoid their
personal details on the public register being sold.
Even had the Assynt Foundation been successful in their bid for Forestry Commission approval, they may well have struggled to raise the money to buy the forest. The Heritage Lottery Scheme has decided that it will no longer fund communities to buy publicly owned land, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise support is much lower than in previous years. This is already frustrating other communities who are keen to create woodland crofts, notably Embo in East Sutherland, which has full approval from the Forestry Commission Scotland to buy their land, but has so far been unable to raise the necessary money.