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OUR expertise in the field of rural affairs public relations came to the fore when the news was broken that funding had been put in place for historic land buyouts in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
Following an announcement from the Scottish Land Fund, Newcastleton and District Community Trust (NDCT) can proceed with the purchase of 750 acres of land known as Holm Hill – adjacent to Newcastleton village – from Buccleuch’s Borders Estate.
An offer of funding has also been made to The Langholm Initiative, a charity which wants to buy 10,500 acres of land including part of Langholm Moor. They plan to establish a vast new nature reserve as well as creating small-scale renewable energy projects. The Langholm Initiative is currently embarking on a crowdfunding appeal to enable the community buyout to become reality.
The story garnered major mainstream and sector-specific media coverage, including a big hit on the BBC, farming, business and rural affairs-related outlets.
Buccleuch said it was delighted that both groups had been successful in their applications and paid tribute to the work that had progressed them to this stage.
Benny Higgins, executive chairman at Buccleuch, said: “When we announced in May last year that we wanted to sell property on the Borders Estate, Buccleuch was fully committed to engaging with local communities to assess their appetite for purchasing the land. Today’s announcement of funding for both Newcastleton & District Community Trust and the Langholm Initiative is a major milestone for that process.
“Both groups have different ideas of what they want to achieve but have shared a tenacity and willingness to cooperate that has made the discussions an enjoyable process.
“Newcastleton & District Community Trust will be finalising their purchase with us very soon and we congratulate them on that achievement.
“There is still some work to be done on the Langholm Initiative buyout and we hope that their crowdfunding campaign will be a success. Both parties have jointly agreed a purchase price and we hope this sale can be realised in the coming months.”
Reflecting on their forthcoming purchase, NDCT thanked the Newcastleton community for their passion and drive which allowed the buyout to come to fruition.
Steve Hartley, chair of the Newcastleton & District Community Trust, said: “The last 12 months has seen a mammoth amount of work undertaken by many people to get us to where we are today, the culmination of all that work results in being awarded the capital to purchase land adjacent to our village.
“Community ownership of this land, much of it still used today as it was over 225 years ago, now gives us all a bigger, brighter, sustainable future. This will continue to include farming, but the community also wants to develop new leisure and renewable sectors spreading the benefits of community ownership to everyone who lives here.
“We would also like to thank the Scottish Land Fund, for believing in our vision and awarding the funds to secure this land and to Buccleuch for their constructive and proactive approach as well as their patience in allowing the community time to prepare our bid, working with us to overcome the challenges presented and to go the extra mile when we asked them to. We cannot express what owning the Holm Hill means to us all, to us it is priceless.”
Margaret Pool, Chair of the Langholm Initiative said: “The Langholm Initiative very much appreciates the offer of a £1 million award from the Scottish Land Fund and, although this is well below the £3 million we applied for, we recognise these are difficult times.
“As the award is time limited, giving us only until October this year to raise the rest of the money, we face the challenging task of raising the rest of the funds required to complete the once-in-a lifetime community purchase.
“But Langholm Moor holds huge cultural significance to the people of Langholm, and we’re working tirelessly to bring this part of the moor into community ownership as part of a ground-breaking project to tackle climate change, boost nature restoration, and support community regeneration.
“We’re urging people to support our crowdfunding appeal, and we’re also investigating other sources of finance as we work positively with Buccleuch Estates to allow the community purchase to take place.
“If you would like to support the Langholm Initiative visit www.langholminitiative.org.uk.”