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Forestry bosses have been accused of turning their back on local peninsula communities with the threat to demolish Sgillean nan Coille, the popular wood school at Salen, close to the shores of Loch Sunart.
Earlier this year, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) area visitor services manager David John Robertson, based at Strontian, informed Acharacle Community Company (ACC) – which had managed the site for a considerable number of years but had since withdrawn from the lease – that, in the longer term, it was unlikely FLS will commit to the continued and sole maintenance of the remaining structures.
Mr Robertson said, regrettably, FLS would be looking to decommission the project and dismantle the buildings early next year unless it could identify a group interested in taking on the management of the buildings.
ACC is unfortunately not in a position to take this liability and workload on, but 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 would give the search for any interested community groups until the end of this year to respond to the offer of lease.
But speaking at Thursday night’s meeting of Ardgour Community Council, deputy chairman Michael Foxley said FLS’s actions were highly disappointing.
‘Those of you who have been around for a while will be familiar with this place, which was part of the Sunart oakwoods initiative, although Salen is a long way from our community council area,’ he said.
‘The wood school itself is like an open building, a composting toilet and a Gaelic alphabet trail that we got Prince Charles to come up to open.
‘The problem is that I see this as Forestry and Land Scotland, the new forestry organisation, as just reneging on its community commitments, when they’ve had commitments to work with communities for about the last 100 years and this is, as far as I am concerned, about as bad as it gets.
‘Basically, they’re saying there isn’t a group to take it over, so we’ll just demolish it. The wood school is looking a bit sad and sorry for itself because it’s been closed for two years with Covid, but hundreds and hundreds of local people have got training based there, for things like tickets for chainsaw working.
‘All of the tickets that local professionals required could be got there, rather than having to go to Oban or Inverness. It all happened locally, so it’s a bigger issue than just whether a timber building goes at Salen.
‘It’s really about whether FLS retains a commitment to local communities and I’d say they clearly don’t by this move.’
The Sgillean nan Coille woodland shelter has been well used in the years since it opened.
Dr Michael Foxley, vice chairman of Ardgour Community Council. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos
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