Rural Economy Secretary visited Eshiels Community Woodland – acquired earlier this year by Peebles Community Trust (PCT) – to learn first-hand of the benefits that community ownership looks set to bring.
Formerly managed by Forestry and Land Scotland’s (FLS) predecessor, Forest Enterprise Scotland, the 7 hectare site near Peebles was sold under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme, which presents communities with the opportunity to take full responsibility for land to deliver greater community benefit.
The Trust’s plans for the woodland include enhancing the landscape, improving biodiversity and public access to woodland, developing small scale woodfuel supply to local businesses and offering education and training opportunities. They also intend to safeguard an important cycle route alongside the River Tweed in an environmentally sensitive area.
Touring the site with PCT members, Mr Ewing said;
“Enhancing Scotland’s system of land ownership and land use, balancing public and private interests while ensuring that our land contributes to a fairer and more just society, is a top priority for the Scottish Government.
“The FLS Community Asset Transfer Scheme is a prime example of how communities can be empowered by taking over publicly-owned land or buildings that they feel they can make better use of for local people.
“The case that PCT put forward for community ownership very clearly indicated a high level of focus and commitment within the community and a robust plan for the future management of the site.
“Sustainable productive management of the woodland will generate income for community benefit but over and above this, they will also use the site for a range of activities focussed on education, training, learning and outdoor activities.
“I wish them every success and hope that their experience will inspire other communities to consider taking a closer look at the opportunities for community asset transfer near them.”
The Eshiels Community Woodland sale, which was completed in January of this year with funding from the Scottish Land Fund, is one of 7 successfully completed asset transfers, with many more in the pipeline.
The wooded land lies between the River Tweed, which is designated an SAC and SSSI, and the Sustrans Tweed Valley Railway Path which runs for 1km within its northern boundary following the route of a disused railway line.
Lawrie Hayworth, Chair of the Peebles Community Trust, said;
“From the very early stages of this process, we have had a vision of a place that would become a focal point for our community.
“We aim to encourage local people and visitors of all ages, abilities and interests – to come along and get involved. This is an amazing opportunity to strengthen community cohesion and to promote sustainable living, learn new skills and develop new business connections.”
Further information about the FLS Community Asset Transfer Scheme and how to apply is available online.