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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Ross Hunter

Rewilding company sign agreement with community group to tackle depopulation

A COMMUNITY group has struck a deal with a rewilding company to tackle depopulation in Argyll.

Highlands Rewilding – a company set up by former Greenpeace director Jeremy Leggett – completed their acquisition of the 3200-acre Tayvallich Estate at Lochgilphead in Argyll in May after previously announcing they had secured the £10.5 million necessary to fund the purchase.

Now, they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tayvallich Initiative community body.

The Scottish Land Fund recently awarded the Tayvallich Initiative £565,608 to buy 34 acres from Highlands Rewilding in order to build affordable housing on the estate.

The previous owner also gifted around 113 acres to the Tayvallich Initiative for the same purpose.

Middle-ground ownership model

The MoU sets out various stipulations which will apply to the terms of the future ownership of the properties, which it is hoped will help stem depopulation in the area.

It includes a condition that the property must be used as the owner’s primary residence.

Currently, one in 20 houses in Argyll and Bute are defined as a second home or holiday let.

The community will also be handed right of pre-emption on future sales.

The agreement also contains a no-eviction policy, a promise to maintain at least the current number of jobs on the estate, and hands the right of pre-emption to the community on future sales.

Meanwhile, Highlands Rewilding will seek to restore the surviving portions of Atlantic rainforest left on the estate.

The National: Jeremy Leggett, CEO of Highland RewildingJeremy Leggett, CEO of Highland Rewilding

The unique agreement is being heralded as a potential middle-ground between private and community ownership, which gives priority to the health of the local community and natural environment.

Dr Leggett said: “The model Highlands Rewilding is pursuing is one that can attract investment into nature recovery at the scale desperately needed to halt biodiversity collapse, with community invited to be part of this; second only to that within community land trusts.

“Community engagement is central to all the work we undertake and forms an integral part to the success of nature regeneration and community prosperity.

“We’re delighted to have reached a conclusion with the MoU and look forward to our ongoing work with Tayvallich Initiative and the wider community to develop the best-practice in Scotland.

“It’s my hope that the protocol, coupled with our efforts in maximising nature recovery by rewilding and repeopling, will be an exemplar for our work and one that other land managers and landowners across the country will adopt.”

'Community prosperity and repopulation' 

Chair of the Tayvallich Initiative, Martin Mellor, said a local board would be set up to oversee the project.

He added: “We look forward to developing an ongoing relationship with Highlands Rewilding as it begins work in this area which has great potential, for both nature restoration and regeneration, and for community prosperity and repopulation.”

Last year, Leggett told The National that Tayvallich would be the first time that British banks have ever lent to a major rewilding project.

The estate contains three different Special Areas of Conservation, five Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the entirety of the 811-acre tidal island of Danna.

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