East Lothian group wins £300k grant for woodland purchase

The woods near Gifford. Picture: Scottish Land Trust
The woods near Gifford. Picture: Scottish Land Trust
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A COMMUNITY group in East Lothian has been given a cash boost of nearly £300,000 to help it buy a patch of village woodland.

Gifford Community Land Company (GCLC) has been awarded a conditional grant of £291,520 by the Scottish Land Fund to support its purchase of the Speedy and Fawn woods.

The group is hoping to buy 55.8 acres of woodland next to Gifford village, with the grant conditional on a successful price negotiation with the vendor and the group’s ability to raise the additional funds required.

GCLC chairman John Wrinn said he was “delighted” at the announcement.

He said: “We are still in negotiation with the landowner to get the right price but this is a huge step forward for us.

“We have pretty much unanimous support within the village.”

Mr Wrinn explained the group had been approached about buying the land around 18 months ago and that negotiations over the sale had been on-going ever since.

He said: “We thought it would be a good idea to bring it back into community ownership.

“It was to save it as an amenity for the village – it’s a benefit for the whole community. The schools use it and we have a large retired population.

“We felt if it went on sale in the general market it may be bought by a developer or a forestry company and we’d lose the amenity round the village.”

GCLC has also received a number of financial pledges from members of the local community and said it was confident the deal for the woodland would go through by the end of March next year.

Mr Wrinn added the group had big plans for the area, including the improvement of its disabled access and the possibility of launching a community orchard.

A portion of the grant will also be used to fund a new project manager role for the first three years of ownership.

The project manager would oversee the running of the woods, working alongside a managerial committee from the local community.

The grant was one of several announced yesterday by the Scottish Land Fund.

Its programme is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership by the Big Lottery Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Ailsa Raeburn, head of community assets at HIE, said: “It’s really exciting to see the range of projects communities are involved in across Scotland.

“The awards today show the ambition and reach of community groups who are looking to make a real difference in their local area. We look forward to seeing the positive impact the funding will have on the four communities which have received awards.”

Other projects awarded funding include Ochiltree Community Hub in East Ayrshire, which received £35,290, and Strontian Community School Building Limited, which was handed £50,825.