Pairc Trust, the community body in South-East Lewis, who have been trying to buy the local Pairc Estate on behalf of the community of some 400 crofters and residents since 2003, have finally completed the purchase and take ownership today.
The Estate extends to over 28,000 acres, with 11 crofting townships and an extensive coastline. The purchase price of £500,000 includes the foreshore and an interposed lease entered into by the previous owner, Mr Barry Lomas of Leamington Spa.
The purchase has finally been made on the basis of a voluntary transfer by the landlord, after a long history involving several ballots and applications by Pairc Trust to the Scottish Government under Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. A summary of the main developments since 2003 is attached.
The terms of the sale were agreed by the community in a postal ballot counted on 1st May 2014. Since then, there has been a protracted process involving lawyers representing the two parties to finalise the necessary legal documents. This has involved, amongst other complex issues, the detailed mapping of the Estate, confirmation of ownership of the foreshore, clarification on the payment of VAT, and a determination by the Interim Auditor of the Sheriff Court of Grampian, Highlands and Islands of the seller’s reasonable and necessary professional costs.
A funding package for the capital costs has been finalised in the last week with external support from Scottish Land Fund, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and the local Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust, in addition to almost £300,000 raised by the Pairc Trust themselves. Revenue funding is being provided by Scottish Land Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Angus McDowall, Chairman of Pairc Trust, said: "We are delighted finally to complete the community buyout today. This is the culmination of some 13 years struggle to buy the Estate on behalf of the community, and I should like to thank everyone who has played a part over the years in eventually achieving the community’s goal. This includes all members and Directors of Pairc Trust, past and present, and particularly everyone within the community who has contributed to the substantial funds raised to purchase the Estate; and to all our external funders and supporters.
We plan that an AGM of the Pairc Trust should be held early in the New Year, at which we hope that new Directors will be elected to take the Trust forward for the important tasks which now lie ahead. We particularly want to strengthen links with other key community organisations in Pairc, and to attract more female and younger Directors. It is planned that job adverts for two new members of staff will be placed as soon as possible. Consideration will also be given to a celebratory event in the New Year."
Rachael McCormack, Director, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "Today is a milestone for community land ownership in Scotland and marks the culmination of an extraordinary effort by the people of Pairc. The land, together with the talent and commitment of local people, will enable the community to determine their own future, and we congratulate them on this hard-won success. The path to community ownership requires vision, resolve and sustained effort - none more so that in Pairc. HIE has actively supported the work of the Pairc Trust for many years and we look forward to continuing to working with them as they turn their efforts to managing and developing the estate for the benefit of present and future generations’.