Pairc Estate buyout: Crofters offered public funding

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Residents of the Pairc Estate on Lewis have been offered public funding to purchase 26,775 acres (10,835ha).

The Scottish Land Fund, which involves money from the Scottish government, is to provide £230,000 towards the £500,000 cost of the buy-out.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise has offered £76,500.

Western Isles local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, has also said it would provide financial support.

Earlier this year, landowner Barry Lomas offered to end a legal battle with his tenants if a hostile bid for his estate was dropped.

The community-run Pairc Trust had started the process of a compulsory purchase.

But the crofters have agreed to take up Mr Lomas' offer to negotiate the purchase of almost all the land.

Mr Lomas was challenging the hostile buy-out.

'Ambitious target'

The deal should bring an end to court action and also the uncertainty of fresh legal wrangling.

Environment Secretary Paul Wheelhouse said: "This funding means the community truly are masters of their own destiny.

Start Quote

Land ownership is clearly a matter close to the hearts and minds of communities the length and breadth of Scotland”

End Quote Paul Wheelhouse Environment Secretary

"Today's announcement marks an important milestone in the 10-year journey for the Pairc Estate residents, who can now look forward to a sustainable future in which their destiny is in their own hands and the decisions that affect them in terms of land management can be taken at a local level."

The chairman of Pairc Trust, Angus McDowall, said the extra funds will help the purchase along terms approved at a public meeting last month.

"There now seems every prospect of concluding arrangements to transfer the estate to the community during the early months of 2014," he said.

In a separate land reform project, the Scottish government said a group will get almost £100,000 to buy four plots at Johnstonebridge in Dumfries and Galloway.

Mr Wheelhouse added: "From the Highlands and Islands to Dumfries and Galloway, land ownership is clearly a matter close to the hearts and minds of communities the length and breadth of Scotland.

"That is why we have instigated an ambitious target to place one million acres of land across Scotland into local ownership by 2020, empowering communities, sparking regeneration and driving renewal."

Fred Dale, chairman of the Johnstonebridge Centre and Community Development Trust, said: "We intend to make full use of our new land purchase for everyone's benefit, both for current and future generations."

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