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An agreement has been reached to buy the Isle of Ulva on behalf of the community, with ownership transferring next month.
The bid to buy Ulva was launched around a year ago when the present owner, Mr Jamie Howard, decided to put the estate on the market.
The North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) applied for a Community Right to Buy under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Their aim is to bring about social and economic development of Ulva for the benefit of the community now and for future generations, with a key objective being repopulation of the island.
NWMCWC director John Addy said: ‘Negotiations have been successfully concluded for the purchase of Ulva Estate on behalf of the community of the island and neighbouring North West Mull. Binding contracts were concluded today and ownership will transfer on June 21.
‘After a long and complex process, a Community Right to Buy was granted over the bulk of the estate at a price set by an independent valuation ordered by the Scottish Government.
‘However, in order to purchase the entire estate; lock, stock and barrel, negotiations have continued to the point reached today when we can announce final agreement between the parties.
‘In parallel with the above process, an ambitious fundraising effort was mounted to secure the money needed not only to buy the estate but also carry out some of the most important development work in the first months and years of ownership.’
Chairman Colin Morrison said: ‘To say we are extremely grateful to all our supporters and to the various funding agencies, organisations and individuals would be an understatement.
‘We cannot thank everyone enough, not just for the financial support, but also the encouragement we’ve been given throughout the process. We have been heartened by the degree of interest and depth of support we have received from official agencies, commercial organisations and also private individuals at home and abroad.’
The bulk of the purchase price and also assistance with project management over the first two years will be coming from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF).
Mr Addy said the SLF offer to award a grant of up to £4.4M is ‘unprecedented in community land purchases in Scotland. It is testimony to the commitment of the Scottish Government to Land Reform, repopulation and stimulation of the development of remote areas of the highlands and islands.
‘Ulva was the birthplace of Lachlan Macquarie, seen by many as the “Father of Australia” and the National Trust for Australia has offered to help promote the tourism opportunity for visiting Macquarie’s birthplace.
‘Planning and design services have been offered pro bono by Moxon Architects Ltd to get the existing houses renovated as quickly as possible.
‘Over 500 individuals from around the world have made donations via the Ulva Buyout JustGiving crowdfunding site. Various fundraising efforts in the community such as jumble sales and pop-up cafes have all played their part. So, to all our supporters we want to say a huge thank you for helping us make this happen.
‘The island of Ulva has been home to the Howard family for over 70 years and clearly the decision to sell must have been a very difficult one. NWMCWC recognises that the community buyout process over the past year has been demanding, and at times stressful, for all concerned. As stewardship passes from the Howard family to the local community, we look forward to an amicable transition based on mutual respect and the Board is keen to wish Mr Howard and his family all the best for the future.’
The cabinet secretary for land reform Roseanna Cunningham congratulated the buyout group: ‘This is ground-breaking news, not just for the local communities on Mull and Ulva, but for community empowerment across Scotland – with the first ever purchase of an entire island, using the Community Right to Buy legislation.
‘I would like to congratulate the North West Mull Community Woodland Company for seeing the sale through to its conclusion, and I was very happy to give the go-ahead to the Scottish Land Fund Committee to award them nearly £4.5 million. The Scottish Government provides the funding for the Scottish Land Fund and this was its largest award so far.’