A community’s plans to buy out a Highland estate took a major step forward yesterday after securing a £273,025 Scottish Government grant.
The Garbh Allt Community Initiative was set up to pursue a deal to take over the 3,000-acre West Helmsdale Crofting Estate, and it is in talks with current owner, Sutherland Estates.
The estate comprises the townships of Marrel, West Helmsdale, Gartymore and Portgower, and includes more than 20 sites of historical interest.
The group hopes that securing the estate’s future will pave the way for business opportunities and create a stream of income into the remote community.
The cash boost of £273,025 from the Scottish Land Fund will allow it to employ a part-time development officer.
It was one of 11 projects across Scotland to secure money from the Scottish Government fund yesterday, seven of which were in the north and north-east.
Other awards included £15,750 for the Blairmore Village Trust in Argyll and Bute, £138,000 for Ullapool Community Trust, £36,000 for the Iona Village Hall Community Trust, £19,000 for the Raasay Development Trust, £160,818 for the Sanday Development Trust on Orkney, and £180,500 for the Findhorn Village Conservation Company in Moray.
Anne Fraser, chairwoman of The Garbh Allt Community Initiative, said: “The Initiative is absolutely delighted with this grant award.
“The buying of the estate has been a long term goal of our community and seeing the first big step towards this happening is just great.
” The Land League founders originated in this community and their descendants are now part of the initiative to buy back their land. We are really proud that this is a community buy out, with everyone living here taking part.
“We are now looking forward to working with Sutherland Estates to tie up the details as soon as possible to enable us to start our exciting development programme.”
Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is a significant phase in the history of the area, and I am pleased that the Scottish Government can support the ambitions that this community has for their local area.
“This sale is a good example of just what can be achieved through negotiated sales between landlords and community groups, and I would encourage more landowners to look into the possibilities for similar sales to community groups in the future.”