Scots given opportunity to take over national forests
Susan Downer & Rosie Niven
The Forestry Commission Scotland is to consult on a new scheme to allow communities to bid for national forest land.
At present communities and environmental groups have to wait for the commission to declare land surplus to requirements and can then take advantage of a sponsorship scheme giving them a prior option to buy at a price set by the district valuer. Under the proposed scheme, communities will be able to nominate any piece of Forestry Commission land they are interested in taking over. Applicants will have to show that the purchase will benefit the community, and is in the wider public interest.
That will also have to have a viable business plan showing how they will manage the land in the long term. Forestry Commission Scotland social policy adviser Simon Hodge told New Sta11: ‘We wish to offer a spectrum of community involvement options. Some will just want to be consulted, some want to be involved in developing management plans or implementing projects on the ground and there are some communities that want to go further. We are therefore also exploring the potential to offer leases and sales to communities as part of that spectrum.’ The scheme will only apply in Scotland
The commission will now work with its ‘forestry for people’ advisory panel co look at how the scheme will work in practice. A consultation paper is due to be launched in the autumn.
The announcement carne as the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 came into effect, allowing community groups in Scotland the right to buy.
Rural development minister Allan Wilson described the law as ‘a significant landmark in the Scottish Executive’s land reform programme’. He said it would lead to increased diversity in the way land is owned and used and lead to more community involvement in land management.
Source: New Start magazine