Isle of Ulva landowner criticises community buyout plans

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The owner of the island of Ulva has criticised an attempted community-buyout of his property.

Jamie Howard, who inherited Ulva following the death of his mother in 2014, claimed he would be homeless if the community buyout went ahead, according to reports.

A community buyout is planned for Ulva off the coast of Mull. PIC: Roger Cox/Contributed.

A community buyout is planned for Ulva off the coast of Mull. PIC: Roger Cox/Contributed.

The island, which spans 5,000 acres and has a population of six, including Mr Howard, was put up for sale last summer.

But the sale on the open market was halted by the Scottish Government in July after a community company on neighbouring Mull said it wanted to use land reform laws to try and buy it.

READ MORE: Islanders say ‘yes’ to Ulva buyout in crucial vote

In October, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon used her party conference speech to announce permission had been given to residents to proceed with the buyout process.

Mr Howard earlier said it was the first time he had heard of the development.

READ MORE: Ulva buyout wins support in Australia

Today, in an interview with The Times newspaper, Mr Howard, 60, criticised the Scottish Government over the way the sale has been handled.

He also queried whether the community group could raise the funds required to run the island properly.

Mr Howard said: “When I put the island up for sale, I was looking for a buyer who would have Ulva’s interests at heart and have the funds to run it.”

The island has been independently valued at £4.2m with Mr Howard claiming another £4m would be needed to run it properly.

Mr Howard told the newspaper: “I don’t see how they can find the funds to run it properly. I don’t know where I will move to, at the moment I will be homeless.”

The North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) said it hopes to access the Scottish Land Fund - which offers grants to help communities take ownership of land - to raise at least £1m. Private donations are also lined up, with some money expected to come from Australia, which has historic links with Ulva.

The buyout took a major step forward this week after islanders on Mull and Ulva, who fall under the membership area of the NWMCWC, voted in favour of the plans.

In total, 401 residents who fall within the membership area of the NWMCWC, were entitled to take part in the postal ballot.

By January 8, 255 out of 401 residents had returned their papers - with 64 per cent backing the buyout.

The North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) has eight months to raise the funds. It has so far raised £21,000 through a crowdfunding appeal.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform, will now decide whether to trigger the community group’s right to buy given the ballot result and the business plan put forward by NWMCWC.

This week, John Addy, a director of NWMCWC, said the buyout would give residents the power to upgrade housing, improve security of tenure for businesses and attract more people to live on Ulva.

Mr Howard, who farms on Ulva, earlier said “strenuous efforts” had been made to try and stem the decline of Ulva’s population with multiple schemes put in place to increase the number of residents and to open the island to visitors

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