AMBITIOUS plans to breathe new life into an iconic Moray landmark are set to be finally realised with the aid of a major grant from the Scottish Land Fund.
In March last year the light on the Covesea Lighthouse at Lossiemouth, which had helped save countless lives along a dangerous stretch of the Moray Firth coastline, was finally extinguished after 166 years of service.
And the future of the historic lighthouse as a community asset has now been secured with the aid of £301,000 in funding in the first series of grants to be awarded by the new Scottish Land Fund.
The Covesea Lighthouse Community Company, formed by the local business association in Lossiemouth, will now be able to buy the redundant lighthouse, its two keepers’ cottages and surrounding land from the Northern Lighthouse Board and develop the facility as major tourism hub to promote local heritage, the area’s unique wildlife and environment and its links to the nearby airbase at RAF Lossiemouth.
The lighthouse at Covesea is at a key point on the spectacular coastline of the Moray Firth - named last month in the top twelve of the world’s most beautiful and unspoiled coastlines by the National Geographic magazine.
Three other community projects - in Cowal, Wester Ross and the Borders - are also to benefit from almost £500,000 in grants from the new fund.
Bernard Annikin, the managing director of the Covesea Lighthouse Community Company said, “Without this funding there was a very good chance the lighthouse would have fallen into private ownership and we would have lost a vital asset for our community.
“When the light was switched out at Covesea a year ago we realised that here was an amazing opportunity to use this building for the benefit of all who live locally. We will now be able to use this site to provide a wide range of recreational activities from photography, painting, plane spotting and dolphin watching. Educational events and activities will be developed so people will have the chance to learn about local maritime history and the stunning natural environment that surrounds them.”
He added: “The commanding position of the lighthouse will offer an additional source of interest in attracting an even greater number of visitors to the area and will further enhance their enjoyment and understanding of the area and ultimately contribute to the economy of the local businesses in Lossiemouth and beyond, an area largely dependent on tourism.”
The lighthouse was built in 1846 and designed by Alan Stevenson, a member of the Stevenson lighthouse engineering dynasty and uncle of the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson.
Its construction was ordered following the loss of 16 vessels during a storm in the Moray Firth in November 1826. The lighthouse was automated in 1984 but the light was turned off last March as it was no longer being used by shipping.
The Scottish Land Fund has awarded a grant of £311,500 to Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust to buy the 615 hectare Stronafian Forest in south-west Cowal, Argyll. The community owned and managed site will be used to create new business opportunities with the development of woodland crofts and a wood fuel business, and provide employment in forest management and related activities.
A grant of £160,700 has been awarded to the Coigach Community Development Company in the remote crofting and fishing community of Achiltibuie in Wester Ross to provide new facilities for walking, mountain biking, pony trekking and star gazing. The cash will also be used to purchase the Achiltibuie Smokehouse land and buildings and ensure community control of any future development.
And £14,877 has been awarded to Midlem Village Hall Committee in the Borders, between St Boswells and Selkirk , to purchase an area of land behind the village hall for sports and other activities.
Launched last year, the £6 million Scottish Land Fund is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs,said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Land Fund is empowering four of our rural communities in Moray Firth, Cowal, Wester Ross and the Borders to take control of their own future by helping them to acquire land and community assets.
“These innovative and diverse projects will bring clear long term benefits, making each community stronger, resilient and more sustainable.”
John Watt, chairman of the Scottish Land Fund, said: “We know from experience that communities can achieve great things when they own and manage local land and land assets. So I am delighted to announce this first round of funding to these four projects and look forward to seeing them develop. Land ownership helps build independent, resilient and confident communities which benefits, not only themselves, but the country as a whole. The Scottish Land Fund, with funding over three years, aims to empower more rural communities, giving them the tools and resources they need so they can achieve their plans of local sustainability.”