Possible Morvern estate buy-out still on track

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A proposal for a community buy-out of the 6,000-acre Killundine Estate on Morvern still has the backing of local residents.

Two meetings held this month to gather the views of the community on the possible acquisition of the estate were very positive towards gaining control of the property, according to Morvern Community Woodlands (MCW) chairwoman Veronique Walraven.

For almost two years,  MCW has been investigating the feasibility of bringing the estate under community ownership.

In July 2019,  a study was carried out into the financial viability of the project which showed it was a viable prospect.

The Scottish Land Fund then awarded additional funding for more work to examine the aspirations of the community in detail and how the estate can be managed for wider community benefit.

Ms Walraven told the Lochaber Times this week that she ‘personally felt the latest meetings to be very positive’ about the possible buy-out and the potential it would have to give an economic, social and environmental boost to the local area.

‘I don’t want to generalise as we have not held any kind of ballot over this. But I did get the feeling from the meetings that the majority of people are still really enthusiastic about this,’ she said.

MCW registered its interest in purchasing the estate under the Community Right to Buy legislation nearly a year ago. The estate is expected to be put up for sale by its owners in the foreseeable future.

This means if the estate is put on the market within the next five years it must be offered to the community first.

Mrs Walraven said MCW was ‘very grateful’ to the owners for their patience and said the results of the latest feasibility study were expected either shortly before Christmas or into the beginning of the new year.

The estate lands stretch from the shores of the Sound of Mull to over 550 metres (1,800 feet) at the summit of Sithean na Raplaich, looking over the Barr River and Loch Teacuis.

The estate is made up of mixed pasture, hill ground, woodland, farm buildings and residential properties and is managed on behalf of the current owners by a land management company.

MCW believes the estate could be managed in a way that creates new business and training opportunities, stabilises the local population, and retains and attracts more young people.

Mrs Walraven said in the last five years there had been two big consultations on whether the local community had wanted a greater say in the management of the land.

‘It is very exciting and we believe this is now quite necessary. We do not have enough opportunities for young people to move here, to live and work here.

‘This has already had a drastic effect on the local primary school at Lochaline where next year, the roll is expected to fall from around 20 to just 12 or 13 children, with it expected to drop even further the year after that to possibly as low as 10.

‘It is quite exciting but at the same time I also feel a little bit apprehensive, as this process has been going on for quite a long time now and it would be a massive undertaking for the community.

‘But we believe bringing Killundine Estate into community ownership could be of huge social and economic benefit to the people of Morvern.’