The ten-year campaign to mount a community purchase of the Pairc Estate is now firmly in the hands of the community after a funding package was put in place to allow local residents to buy the 26,775 acre area of land on the Isle of Lewis, Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced today (Frday).
The Pairc Trust will receive £230,000 from the Scottish Land Fund that will allow it to complete the purchase of the Pairc Estate, which was backed by the community at a recent public meeting.
Today, Highlands and Islands Enterprise has also announced £76,500 funding, adding to the support already confirmed from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar allowing The Pairc Trust to pursue the purchase for £500,000 under an amicable agreement with the landowner that should allow settlement in early 2014.
Mr Wheelhouse said the final pieces of the Pairc Estate funding package, which will also allow for the appointment of a full-time development manager, “marked the end of a ten-year journey” for the local residents on Lewis, who could now look forward to a more sustainable future with their destiny now placed firmly in their own hands.
Mr Wheelhouse said:“Land reform is a crucial part of our plans for a more successful Scotland, and I believe that – just as those who live and work in Scotland are best placed to make decisions about the country’s future – local communities are best-placed to decide on their futures.
“As a result I am delighted to announce such crucial funding for Pairc and Johnstonebridge. From the Highlands and Islands to Dumfries and Galloway, land ownership is clearly a matter close to the hearts and minds of communities the length and breadth of Scotland.
“That is why we have instigated an ambitious target to place one million acres of land across Scotland into local ownership by 2020, empowering communities, sparking regeneration and driving renewal. Community buyouts, such as the one at Pairc will go towards meeting that ambition, but more importantly will breathe life into the land right across Scotland.”
On Pairc, Mr Wheelhouse continued:
“The whole community around the Pairc Estate has worked tirelessly over the past decade to bring their land into local ownership and I am delighted to announce today that the Scottish Land Fund will provide the final part of the funding package to allow the purchase to take place. This funding means the community truly are masters of their own destiny.
“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone in the ten-year journey for the Pairc Estate residents, who can now look forward to a sustainable future in which their destiny is in their own hands and the decisions that affect them in terms of land management can be taken at a local level.
Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair, John Watt, said:
“Over the last ten years The Pairc Trust and the wider community have shown great resilience in pursuing their goal of community ownership, in what has been a complex process. I am delighted that the Scottish Land Fund is able to help the community look to a future that is stronger, resilient and more sustainable. Congratulations also go to Johnstonebridge Centre and Community Development Trust. The people of Johnstonebridge have chosen to take advantage of the resources available through the fund to purchase some important pieces of land with tremendous potential for development. This is a great example of local people working together to take control of their own futures and I wish them every success with this new project.”
Chairman of Pairc Trust, Angus McDowall, said:
“This substantial award from the Scottish Land Fund, together with financial support obtained from CnES and HIE, will enable us to purchase the Estate through an amicable transfer on the terms outlined and approved at the public meeting last month. I am most grateful to the Scottish Land Fund, and our other funders, for their very valuable assistance. There now seems every prospect of concluding arrangements to transfer the Estate to the community during the early months of 2014.”
Rachael McCormack, Director of Strengthening Communities at HIE, commented:
“This is a historic announcement for the Pairc community. For over a decade the question of land ownership has dominated the local landscape. Throughout this time HIE has supported The Pairc Trust’s efforts to own the land on which they live. Looking ahead we will continue our close working with the community as they implement their development plans to build a stronger and more resilient community. Securing ownership is a major first step to the Pairc community realising its true potential”.