Decommissioning looms for Salen wood school

The Sgillean nan Coille woodland shelter has been well used in the years since it first opened. NO F36 woodschool 01
The Sgillean nan Coille woodland shelter has been well used in the years since it first opened. NO F36 woodschool 01

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The hunt is on to find a community group willing to take on Sgillean nan Coille, the popular wood school at Salen, close to the shores of Loch Sunart.

Acharacle Community Company (ACC) posted details on its Facebook page last week of a recent communication from Forestry Land Scotland (FLS), which manages the buildings which include composting toilets.

The wood school structures, toilets and composting site were originally funded with the vision these would be managed by the community and through a lease agreement with the then Forestry Commission Scotland, now FLS.

The structures are currently managed by FLS as there is no lease agreement with any community group or body.

FLS area visitor services manager David John Robertson, based at Strontian, recently informed ACC that, in the longer term, it is unlikely FLS will commit to the continued and sole maintenance of the remaining structures.

Mr Robertson explained: ‘We will, with some regret, look to decommission the project and dismantle the buildings early next year. We also have plans for tree felling at Lochan Dunaich woodland adjacent to the buildings which is scheduled for later this year or early 2022.’

Mr Robertson added there was also a proposal to use the area that currently holds the wooden composting structures for wood-stacking, which would mean the demolition of those structures around early October leaving the toilets and Sgillean nan Coille woodland shelter intact for now.

He also confirmed FLS was therefore seeking to identify interest and discuss a lease for the area with any group in the position to take on the management of the buildings.

‘This would mean the leasee/group would need to insure, maintain the buildings and footprint of the lease,’ said Mr Robertson.

ACC is unfortunately not in a position to take this liability and workload on, but has agreed with FLS to share this information with the wider community and encourage any interested community group to contact it directly to discuss the possibility of a lease.

FLS has said it will give the search for any interested community groups until December 31 to respond to the offer of lease.

Responding to the news, one local person posted on the ACC Facebook page stating: ‘The structures benefit the whole community, the whole peninsula, not to mention the tourist industry.

‘Isn’t it unfair to expect just Acharacle Community Company to take that on? Could the varying community companies discuss taking on the buildings together? It seems such an irresponsible waste to demolish them.’

Asked for its view, Acharacle Community Council told the Lochaber Times it had been surprised to learn just recently that the community company had withdrawn from its lease with FLS, some time ago, and was no longer interested in managing Sgillean nan Coille in Salen, which it had ‘undertaken admirably’ for many years.

The community council added: ‘The site has become a well-used and much-appreciated location within the wider peninsula communities, having been used for many community activities and events and occasional weddings and  parties.

‘Acharacle Community Council will be doing everything it can over the coming few months to start a conversation within the local and wider community in the hope an organisation willing and able to take over management of the site can be found. We welcome contact from anyone with ideas, suggestions or offers of help.’

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The Sgillean nan Coille woodland shelter has been well used in the years since it first opened.

NO F36 woodschool 01