The Communities Housing Trust has been awarded £94,490 from The Highland Council’s Community Regeneration Fund to take forward a project to provide new affordable homes and woodland crofts in Glengarry, to help repopulate the glen.
Inverness-based charity the Communities Housing Trust and Glengarry Community Woodlands (GCW) are undertaking a shared vision for a two-phase community-led project in Lower Ardochy Forest, where access to both housing and land were highlighted as important issues during a community consultation process in 2020.
In this first phase of the project, the Communities Housing Trust will provide two new woodland crofts with housing as well as four additional homes for affordable rent. Over 19 hectares (47 acres) was purchased by the Communities Housing Trust from Forestry and Land Scotland. The new funding from the Community Regeneration Fund will allow the Trust to develop a masterplan for the land with the appointed design team Catoe/Brown Architecture & Landscape studio and engineers Cameron +Ross before applying for and obtaining the necessary consents.
An allocation policy will be applied to the homes, prioritising people who live locally or who can bring skills to the area. The homes and crofts will also be protected to ensure their benefits are retained within the community upon any future change of occupants.
Ronnie MacRae, chief executive of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are extremely pleased to see this crucial repopulation project move forwards. The model will demonstrate positive land use and stewardship in a way that benefits the environment, the local economy, and the ongoing sustainability of the area. We hope this becomes a beacon for what’s possible for other rural communities to look to.”
Woodland crofts are crofts with sufficient tree cover overall to be considered woodland. The model, based on management of the forest, can support low-carbon lifestyles and livelihoods. The new crofts will be established with the support of the Woodland Crofts Partnership, and will bring the total number of woodland crofts applied for or registered by community groups to over 30, a significant proportion of all new crofts created in recent years.
Jamie McIntyre, from the Woodland Crofts Partnership said: “Community groups are leading the way on the creation of woodland crofts but we need a lot more of them to satisfy the demand that exists, so we hope that this innovative approach of working in partnership with the Communities Housing Trust will help groups deliver that expansion.”
Following a Community Asset Transfer from Forestry and Land Scotland in 2022, a neighbouring site owned by Glengarry Community Woodlands will also provide four further woodland crofts. Both of the sites will be managed as an integrated project, and received funding from the Scottish Land Fund for a variety of development work including a new Woodland Management Plan.
Ross Lynn, chairwoman of Glengarry Community Woodlands (GCW), said: "The one issue that is holding back the development of our community is the lack of access to housing that people can afford to either buy or rent. Because of this issue, our community is losing young, skilled people, who we need to fulfill vital roles locally, so we are delighted to be working with the Communities Housing Trust and Woodland Crofts Partnership on the project at Ardochy’’.
James Catoe from Catoe/Brown said: “As a young practice catoe/brown is very excited to be involved in a project with a clear net benefit to the local community. Redressing the balance of available, affordable housing and land in the Highlands is a key driver behind what we do, and by working alongside CHT, GWC and the WCP this is exactly what will be achieved here.”
Edward Brown further added: “We are currently developing sustainable housing designs that reflect the woodland locality, utilise local resources and are affordable for tenants to run. These will be incorporated into a masterplan that focuses on woodland crofting and sustainable land use. ”
A community drop-in event is planned for Saturday 27 May in the meeting room of Glengarry Community Hall from 11am – 3pm to meet the partners and design team to view and discuss the initial plans.
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