Highland glen to begin repopulation after community buys forest land

A Highland glen is to begin its repopulation after land was sold to the surrounding community for new homes.

Two areas of land at Ardochy near Glengarry have been purchased by Glengarry Community Woodlands and the Communities Housing Trust for six new woodland crofts and four to six new affordable homes.

The sale has been described as a a “pivotal” moment in the history of Ardochy, where hundreds of tenants were evicted in the late 18th Century after falling into rent arrears, according to accounts.

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The new homes will be build close to the abandoned township of Daingean, on the north side of Loch Garry, where 300 people reportedly lived until 1785.

Ross Lynn, Chair of Glengarry Community Woodlands, said: “This is a pivotal moment for Glengarry as this project will provide young people and families with much-needed opportunities to remain in the area and to generate income through the sustainable management of this local woodland.”

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Both land purchases totalling 66 hectares (163 acres) of Ardochy Forest were funded in part by the Scottish Land Fund, via Forestry and Land Scotland’s Community Asset Transfer scheme.

The community will help to determine the criteria for those securing the homes and crofts, with a focus on both addressing local needs alongside encouraging repopulation of the glen, Mr Lynn added.

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The land at Ardochy where new homes and woodland crofts will be built after the community bought over woodland. PIC: Contributed.

The new crofts will bring the total number of woodland crofts applied for or registered by community groups to 30, a significant proportion of all new crofts created in recent years.

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Woodland crofts are crofts with sufficient tree cover that allows them to be considered as woodland.

Like any croft, they confer a mixture of rights and responsibilities on crofters, but based on management of the forest.

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Development of the croft and housing project followed a consultation process with the community who gave their input on the future of the land. Access to both housing and land were highlighted as important issues throughout the responses.

Glengarry Community Woodlands will now work with the Woodland Crofts Partnership to establish four new woodland crofts over 47 hectares (116 acres) of the forest.

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In addition, the Communities Housing Trust will provide two new woodland crofts and four to six affordable homes over 19 hectares (47 acres), which will be a mix of tenures based on the needs of the local communities and include rental properties, homes for discounted sale, and croft housing.

Any homes for sale will have discounts protected in perpetuity by the Rural Housing Burden, which also prioritises local communities in allocations and gives control over future sales.

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The crofts will similarly be protected to ensure their benefits are retained within the community upon any future change of occupation.

Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust, said: “This is a fantastic example of holistic rural development targeting regeneration and repopulation that will also benefit both the economy and the environment. It demonstrates positive land use and stewardship, and we’re delighted to be working with Glengarry Community Woodlands and the Woodland Crofts Partnership to take the project forward.

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"A combination of genuinely affordable homes and woodland crofts, spearheaded by the local community, is a great model that other rural communities will be able to look to.”

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