The first two bids under the Crofting Community Right to Buy provisions were approved this week by Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. Approval could see the Pairc community on Lewis take over eligible croft and common grazing land as well as looking after the interests of tenants on the Pairc Estate.
The Pairc Estate covers 26,800 acres (a similar land area to the city of Edinburgh) and has 11 townships and 208 crofts. Almost 400 people currently live in the Estate. The Pairc Community Trust have a number of projects planned including building affordable housing, developing a ranger service, a camper van site, holiday packages for visitors, improving paths and exploring renewable energy oppportunities.
Ms Cunningham said, "After serious scrutiny and deliberation, the complex issues surrounding the Trust's application have now been fully analysed and I can grant approval for The Pairc Trust to go ahead to purchase the land.
"The plans the Trust has should help inject new life into the area, rejuvenate the economy and boost the fortunes of all those who live, work and visit this spectacular part of our country.
"I wish them good fortune in raising the money required to purchase the estate and every success in shaping their own destiny."
Pairc Trust chairman, Angus McDowall, said, "This is an historic step forward for our community, and sends an unambiguous message to the landlord that the economic and social development of Pairc in the interests of the whole community should be ranked above private financial gain. It is a complete vindication of the persistence which we and the whole community have shown over so many years in trying to exercise our rights under the Act in order to plan a better future for local crofters and residents.
"But it is only a start. We will now be contacting the landlord with a view to resuming discussions about a possible voluntary transfer of the whole Estate. This has always been our preferred route. We very much hope that, in the light of the Minister's decisions, the landlord will now be prepared to enter meaningful negotiations about arrangements which would transfer to the community all the normal powers of a landlord. In the meantime, we will continue to pursue implementation of our successful Part 3 applications, and do not rule out further Part 3 applications for the remaining parts of the Estate if the landlord continues to prevaricate.
"Once we know what the valuation is, we will of course need to raise the money to fund the purchase. I am confident that this can be achieved. I can also give a commitment to the community that we will consult them further about the terms of a transfer of the Estate, whether this is on a voluntary basis or under Part 3 of the Act, before a sale proceeds. We have tried at all times during this long-running saga to reflect the views of the people we represent, and we will continue to do so to the best of our ability."
The Pairc Trust have arranged a public meeting this Friday 25th March at 8pm in Pairc School, Gravir, to update members and other local residents on the community buyout of the Pairc Estate, following the Scottish Government's decision.
Approval under the Crofting Community Right to Buy provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 will be followed by the appointment of an independent expert who will determine the market value of the land. The Pairc Community Trust will then have six months to raise the necessary funds.
Photogrpah courtesy of Sandihal on flickr.com.