Pairc buy-out: Ten-year wait is almost over

BY MURRAY MACLEOD murray.macleod@whfp.co.uk

Residents on the Pairc Estate in Lewis were this week a step closer to owning the land on which they live, following the award of £230,000 from the Scottish Land Fund.

This means that all the funding is now in place for a £500,000 com­munity buy-out of the 26,000-acre estate. A formal offer has been made to landowner Barry Lomas, who until recently had fiercely resisted a buy-out and had raised two separate court actions blocking progress.

However, at a public meeting in Pairc last November it was agreed to make Mr Lomas an offer for the estate based on a negotiated value of £500,000. He is now expected to drop the court actions.

In addition to the £230,000 from the Scottish Land Fund, a further £76,500 will come from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and other financial support is expected from Highlands and Islands Enterprise. A total of some £300,000 has already been pledged through private donations.

Pairc Trust chairman Angus McDowall said: “This substantial award from the Scottish Land Fund, together with financial support obtained or expected from the comhairle and HIE, will enable us to purchase the estate through an amicable transfer on the terms outlined and approved at the public meeting last month.

“I am most grateful to the Scottish Land Fund, and our other funders, for their very valuable assistance. There now seems every prospect of concluding arrange­ments to transfer the estate to the community during the early months of 2014.”

Mr McDowall said that only the legal technicalities remained to be resolved and added: “The Pairc Trust would like to thank all who have contributed to our buy-out fund, both financially and in other ways.”

Scottish Government Environ­ment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the final pieces of the Pairc Estate funding package, which will also allow for the appointment of a full-time development manager, “marked the end of a 10-year journey” for the local residents who could now look forward to a more sustainable future with their destiny now placed firmly in their own hands.

John Watt, chair of the Scottish Land Fund committee, added: “Over the last 10 years the Pairc Trust and the wider community have shown great resilience in pursuing their goal of community ownership, in what has been a complex process. I am delighted that the Scottish Land Fund is able to help the community look to a future that is stronger, resilient and more sustainable.”

David Cameron, chairman of Community Land Scotland — the umbrella body representing community-owned estates — said: “Community Land Scotland have always believed that the amicable route is the most successful and we are very glad to see that both parties appear to be working towards that end. “We hope they continue to do so so that we can have a resolution at the beginning of 2014. It would be a great start to the year.”