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Longrigg Woodland – Feasibility Study

Latest news March 2021

In a nutshell ……….. or should we say fir cone!

· Longrigg woodland is being sold off by Forestry & Land Scotland.

· The trees need to be harvested before they become dangerous, but getting access to remove the trees has been awkward

· As a public agency ‘the Forestry’ have to offer the woodland to the Community first

· If the community does not support a buyout, it will be sold to a private buyer and the community would have no control or direct influence on future development.

· On February 1st 2021 the Directors of the Sunart Community Company agreed that buyout would be financially viable.

· We believe it can create employment and recreation opportunities, firewood and most importantly, will allow community to control the woodland, both now and for future generations – as many communities have done in the last 20 years. See https://www.communitywoods.org/

Why does this involve me?

As a local resident we want to hear your views. To access grants we need to show that the community supports the idea. We also want to know who might wish to be involved in a working group to take the buyout forward and to decide how best to develop the land. The Community Company Directors will only pursue the buyout if:

a) enough people support it, and

b) there are enough people interested to form as group to oversee development.

We will be planning formal consultation activities in 2021 (CV19 restrictions allowing) but we are very happy to receive any comments at any time so please do feel free to get in touch.

Where has this come from?

This consultation follows from interviews and discussions culminating in a successful public meeting on 7th December 2018 in the village hall, where attendees overwhelmingly agreed that owning the Longrigg Woods would be a positive thing for the community. Although the overall response was positive there were also concerns whether the ownership of a woodland was viable, namely:

· Financial viability and market for the timber

· Community capacity to run it

· Finding a route to extract the timber to the main road that minimises disruption to residents.

Read all about it.

Taking these concerns as well as the constructive comments from the meeting, over the intervening period the SCC has worked hard to develop the proposal. A working group of volunteers was formed to start the process and to commission RDI Associates Ltd to undertake a full Feasibility Study and Business Case for the commercial viability of this purchase and all associated risks.

The consultants concluded “Community ownership will not only safeguard this asset for the community enabling them to fulfil many aspirations, in addition, through the restructuring of the woodland, it will enhance the local environment improving the landscape, increasing biodiversity and eventually linking the woodland with other habitat networks.”

How can we buy the woodland?

This community has successfully bought land previously, for the hydro, the former Visitor Information Centre and the land above the jetty as well as other smaller pieces of land. SCSBL was formed to buy the land for the new primary school building, so we know it’s possible. In 2018 the woodland was valued at £270,000. The Scottish Land Fund can offer 95% of the cost of purchase and money towards revenue costs such as employing a part time project officer to manage the harvesting and redesign of the land. There is also value in the timber which we can harvest in stages.

How will it be managed? Can I get involved?

A part time woodland manager would be appointed, who would then be overseen by a working group of people from the community who will develop the project, in the same way as we did with the Hydro Scheme. It’s too early to say at this stage but a separate community woodland company could be formed to buy and run it, the Community Company could buy it and lease it to a community woodland group (as happened with the hydro) or it could be run by a dedicated steering group, using the ‘umbrella’ of the community company. Detailed knowledge of forestry is not required to join a working group, but a degree of enthusiasm will be needed! It is likely local contractors would be used where required but with volunteer opportunities as well. If you are interested in being involved please let us know by contacting any of the Board or responding via the website.

What can we do with the woodland?

There is a lot more to a woodland like this than just extracting logs and replanting with a mix native species and commercial timber, and many of these will create employment opportunities. For example, there is an opportunity for a wood fuel business and mobile timber milling could make things like fence posts. Parts of the land could be leased for the establishment of Woodlots and Woodland Crofts and there may be scope for affordable housing sites. New footpaths to the High Road and Phemies Wood could be built, and possible mountain bike trails, and areas set aside for wildlife reserves. These will be funded with a mix of grants and the profits from selling the timber

How do we get the wood out of Longrigg woodland?

Following detailed discussions with neighbours, the only available access point to the woodland is from Longrigg Road, a little way above the Ben View Hotel. The budget allows for build an access road and a log storage area within the current woodland as well as upgrading the road in partnership with the Council which will of long term benefit. To reduce haulage costs we may have to improve the Longrigg Road / A861 junction. It is not an ideal route, however, it would ensure complete control of harvesting is in local hands, so we can minimise disturbance for residents of Longrigg.

How do the finances stack up?

There are 3 proposed options identified in the consultants’ report. The Community Company believes Option 3 (or a variation of it) is the most viable for our community. There is approximately £500,000 of timber available to sell as chipwood, firewood and sawlogs. We propose some areas being left open, some for natural regeneration and over half replanted with native broadleaved trees. (Some of the woodland is unsuitable for trees and better suited for wildlife and biodiversity.) (Estimates only – all design plans need to be approved by the authorities. We estimate annual average profits over 5 years between £25-35,000 per year (depending on the final harvesting regime.) We intend to apply for other grant funds to match these profits to undertake other projects like the access routes, wildlife reserve, picnic sites and perhaps a timber processing shed.

Yo can view all the latest documentation here

December 2020

After a number of delays, the long-awaited Feasibility Study confirming the viability of the community buying Longrigg Woodland will be published in December. In the new year, there will be a period of consultation, a survey and opportunities to discuss the idea of a woodland buyout. With no January De tha Dol? please keep an eye on social media, the website and notice boards for news of the consultation.

August 2020

The working group has been exploring all possible options for extracting the timber, which has taken quite some additional time. This has involved making more enquiries, seeking advice and working with the consultants on some further options for possible harvesting, extraction and restocking of the woodland. The consultants’ reports i.e. the feasibility study, business case, etc. are being finalised. It is the intention then to present the reports, findings and any recommendations at a public event, or events if social distancing requires more than one event. The aim being to provide the opportunity to discuss the matter and establish a consensus on which course of action might be preferred and how best to proceed. If a decision to proceed is made, the Community Company Board can submit an application to the Scottish Land Fund in February 2020. It will also be necessary to establish a new and larger committee to take the next phase forward.

February 2020

Investigations into Longrigg Woodland are progressing! We still seem on track for knowing the full picture in Spring 2020.

We have had a specialist access survey carried out and are awaiting the results from that study.

The consultants are working on the final draft report for us after our lengthy constructive feedback on the first draft. We’re getting so much closer now to knowing what Longrigg Woodland could mean for the community.

December 2019

The first draft report has arrived from the Consultants. We have worked through maticulously and given them feedback to shape the final draft. We hope to be ready to speak to you all about it in Spring 2020.

February 2019

PROGRESS! 

Our team of Consultants are on site and carrying out studies of Longrigg Woodland and consulting members of the Communtiy

Please see the Initial Reports for Longrigg Woodland HERE

If you have not had chance to get involved so far or would like to be contacted by the consultants, please let us know!

 

October 2018

GREAT NEWS!!!

Our application to the Scottish Land Fund to undertake the Feasibility and Viability Study of Longrigg Woodland was successful!

We will be working with the team of consultants this winter to complete the feasibility study of the Woodland.

This study will help us to identify various options and costings for management and extraction (routes and methods) of the current timber resource and its value. It will give us options for the future management of the woodland and identify what potential it may have in terms of community benefits, employment etc. Once the consultant has completed the study, there will be a community consultation to present the findings.

Background summer 2018

In March 2017, The Sunart Community Company and Community Council held a public Community Woodland Workshop. This was initiated because Forestry Commission Scotland contacted the Community Council to inform them that Longrigg Woodland had been earmarked for disposal (sale). Their first port of call is to offer it to the community, and if the community does not wish to purchase it, it goes on the open market.

The Sunart Community Council gave the Community Company the go ahead to investigate viability for a Community Woodland project.

Following the Community Workshop held in March, the Sunart Community Woodland Working Group formed with the purpose of investigating the viability and potential for our own Community Woodland project. The LDO’s have been managing the project, however they are working on a wide range of projects in the area, some of which have taken more of a priority over the last year.

Investigations are underway, and the valuation has now been carried out by the District Valuer. No commitment has been made to purchasing Longrigg Woodland. The Forestry Commission are aware that we have substantial investigations to carry out before we are able to make a decision whether to proceed with a purchase or not.

We submitted an application to the Scottish Land Fund for Stage (SLF) 1 Funding.

The SLF funding will be for us to commission a Feasibility and Viability study of the Woodland. This study will help us to identify various options and costings for management and extraction (routes and methods) of the current timber resource and its value. It will give us options for the future management of the woodland and identify what potential it may have in terms of community benefits, employment etc. Once the consultant has completed the study, there will be a community consultation to present the findings.

We compiled and sent out a briefing document for the Feasibility and Viability Study to 5 consultants to tender for. We have had two responses and agreed on the successful candidate.

Now we just have to wait and hope that our application to the Scottish Land Fund is approved!

GREAT NEWS!!!  Our application to the Scottish Land Fund to undertake the Feasibility and Viability Study of Longrigg Woodland was successful!