Proposed Purchase of Invergarry Depot and Woodland

Questions & Answers

What is being proposed? What is for sale?
The recently constituted Glengarry Community Woodland (GCW) Steering Group is proposing to apply to buy the woodland in Invergarry being offered for sale by Forestry Commission Scotland, via the National Forest Land Scheme (NFLS). The depot and woodland would be bought on behalf of the whole community.

What is the Glengarry Community Woodland (GCW) Steering Group?
The steering group has been set up as a precursor to your local community development organisation which would work to benefit the local area. This would be a charity whose purpose would be to support and promote sustainable community development. All adult local residents would be eligible to be members at no cost. GCW is a group set up to carry out the necessary community ballot and submit the application to FCS.

What is the National Forest Land Scheme (NFLS)?
The NFLS is a scheme administered by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) which allows properly constituted community groups to acquire or lease land from them if doing so will deliver enhanced public benefits. There are several strands to the NFLS including the Sponsored Sale of Surplus Land which is applicable here. This gives the community a ‘right of first refusal’ to acquire the land, subject to meeting NFLS criteria. For full details regarding NFLS, go to the website at: http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/strategy -policy guidance / communities / national-forest-land-scheme-nfls.

Why should the community acquire these woodlands?
The Steering Group has been advised that this is a unique opportunity to acquire a locally significant land asset which will support sustainable rural development through direct and indirect jobs related to tourism, environment, education and community development.

Would this affect existing services provided by the community hall?
Not at all, as the idea is that the two services would work in collaboration and complement each another for the benefit of the whole community.

Are any other organisations in favour of this proposal?
Yes. The Invergarry Community Council is in support, as is the Glengarry Trust. Also, Voluntary Action Lochaber (VAL); Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE); Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and the Highlands Small Community Housing Trust (HSCHT) have all attended meetings and been very positive and supportive of the proposed buyout.

How much of the woodland will be purchased?
The initial plans are to apply to purchase all of the woodland in Invergarry currently declared surplus by FCS, which is approximately 30 hectares. However, this will be subject to the production of a comprehensive business plan, which will establish the feasibility of the various ideas.

Why are we holding a ballot?
In order for our application to acquire the woodlands to be approved by FCS, it must meet various criteria. One of these is that the local community demonstrates its support for the purchase through a ballot of local residents. By voting 'NO' the woods will be placed on the open market in the next financial year - for other bodies to develop. By voting 'YES' you will give the steering group an additional 18 months to prepare a detailed business plan and secure funding for the purchase.

Am I eligible to vote?
If you are over 18, ordinarily resident in the postcode area of Glengarry Community Council and are on the electoral register here you are eligible to vote in the ballot. Note that you do not have to be a member of the steering group or the subsequent community group in order to vote (though we would encourage you to join!). If you are under 18 and wish to express an opinion, please mail Bruce Kocjan-Briggs (contact details below.)

Does it matter whether I vote?
Yes! Under the NFLS process we are required to achieve a very large turnout from our community. So, whichever way you intend to vote, it is important you do so.

Will the ballot be confidential and fair?
Yes. Voluntary Action Lochaber (VAL) is organising this postal ballot on behalf of GCW. No voting forms are personally identifiable and no-one from the GCW group will be involved in the count.

How much will the woodlands cost?
The District Valuer has valued the land at £200,000.
In addition to the purchase costs, investment will be required in due course to restore and manage the woodlands.

How will we raise the money?
This will clearly be a challenge but one which has been met by many other communities in the past. This will not cost any individuals in the community any money. It is intended that the money be raised from a number of public bodies eg Scottish Land Fund ‘Big Lottery Fund’. Funding to support ongoing management could also be available from the Scottish Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

What happens if we can’t raise the money?
If our application is successful but we are subsequently unable to raise sufficient funding within 18 months, our option to purchase will lapse and FCS will sell the woodlands on the open market.

How can we be sure the project is viable?
The process of business planning is already underway. An outline plan will be submitted with our NFLS application and, if approved, this will be developed further to confirm the detailed business case. The GCW group will be unable – nor would it wish – to progress the project without a sound business case being proved.

Where can I find out more about the project?
You could visit our website at: http://www.glengarry.org.uk
Or you could visit Glengarry Life where there are specific pages for the Glengarry Community Woodland (GCW): http://www.glengarrylife.com/index.html
The following GCW steering group office bearers will be able to answer further queries.
Bruce Kocjan-Briggs (Chairman) – 01809 501294 or b.kocjanbriggs@googlemail.com
Grace Grant (Secretary) – 01809 501488
Charlotte Proven (Treasurer) – 01809 501265
Other members of the steering group are also happy to answer your questions, these being: Jon Fleming, Colin Grant, Lea MacNally, Jimmy & Catriona Menzies, Hector & Lindsay Rogers, Colin Sage or Neillie Stewart.

 

15 August 2015

Thank you to all those who came to our Question Time on 22nd July.
There was much lively debate and the questions and answers below can only be a simplified version of that discussion but we hope these give a flavour of the evening and are helpful to those who weren't there

Q What do the directors do?
A The Directors will be resposible for making the strategy and
policy decisions for the running of Glengarry Community
Woodlands in order to achieve the aims voted for by the
membership.

Q How long do they stay in position?
A The articles of association state that directors can serve a
maximum of 3 years then stand for election for a further
maximum 3 year term before being required to stand down for at
least one year before being eligible for re-election.

Q Can the 2 x 3yr rotation of directors be relaxed in smaller
communities?
A In theory yes, but in practice a rotation of directors from the
membership is good for the company.

Q Do all directors have to be local?
A Up to 3 additional (non local) directors can be co-opted by
the board of elected (local) directors. Please see the Articles of
Association on our website for further details.

Q How best can we encourage the community to be involved?
A Have a range of the most popular ideas from the survey with
suitable opportunities for volunteering, and continually discuss
and engage with the whole community.

Q What would you pick as a quick win?
A The (selective) harvesting of the over mature Douglas Fir
timber at the north end of the woodland to introduce some
working capital and enable some of the other opportunities
and ideas.

Q Do we need to have ideas set in stone before applying for
grant funding?
A No ideas have to be set in stone but detailed and costed
proposals have been included in the the Feasibility Study
which has formed part of the funding application. This is not an
exhaustive list of ideas and more possibilities can be explored
in the fullness of time.

Q How do we include children?
A Engaging the local schools to become involved with all
aspects of the Woodland, particularly opportunities for a
"Woodland Classrom"

Q What kind of jobs could be created?
A Initially, a Community Development Officer and within a short
timescale a firewood business could provide employment
opportunity. Further down the line many opportunities could
be developed from the ideas suggested and listed in the
Feasibility Study.

Q What stage are we at with funding?
A Very close to hearing back from the Scottish Land Fund (due to get back to
us this September)

Q What is Plan B for funding?
A One possibility is to re-apply for the next round of SLF
funding, another would be to apply for other lottery funding
such as "Investing in Communities: Growing Community
Assets"

Q Is there an understanding of whether timber sales could be
used to offset the costs of acquisition?
A Not directly but the timber sales detailed in the Feasibility
Study will very strongly support any application for funding.

Q How do members get involved without causing conflict of
interest?
A In the very rare event of an issue arising where a financial
conflict of interest arises, the member simply declares the
interest and does not vote on that specific issue.

Q Do you see the role of the Board as facilitators rather than
employers?
A Mainly the directors will appoint subcontractors or enlist
expert help for management and projects so a bit of both.

Q When does the new Highland Council structure plan come into force?
A The presentation of the Draft plan to the councillors is now
overdue so should be in the time-scale of months rather than
years - no specific date though.

Q How much would it cost to maintain the woodland – is it
going to be worthwhile?
A The Woodland presents many opportunities to be financially
self sustainable and can be a platform to enable more of the
ideas
which the community puts forward - many of which are listed
in the feasibility study.  Some of these will of course require
extra funding but will have many benefits for the community.

Q What form could wildlife hides take – what potential is there?
A There are many potential locations for wildlife hides in the
woodlands and if located next to a path, they would provide a
"reason to stop" and appreciate the natural environment of the
woodland.

Q How easy would it be to sell the land if it doesn't work?
A If for whatever reason the Glengarry Community Woodland
company had to be brought to a close, the Woodland would be
placed on sale with first offer perhaps going to a housing
association. The caveat is that any funding awarded to the
project must be redistributed to charitable causes benefiting
the community.