Sleat Community Trust
Sleat Community Trust (SCT) purchased forest from Forestry Commission Scotland (now Forestry and Land Scotland and Scottish Forestry) with a mixture of income from the local community, grant and loan funding. A wide variety of enterprises and community projects have been developed on the land. Income-generating activities, such as a tree nursery and hydro scheme, support other activities in the forest and the development of further enterprise. Access has also been improved with new facilities, a forest school, paths, and interpretation.
Detailed case study
Sleat Community Trust (SCT) purchased forest from Forestry Commission Scotland (now Forestry and Land Scotland and Scottish Forestry) with a mixture of income from the local community, grant and loan funding. The aim of the project was to improve biodiversity and to create a community asset that, initially, provided a sustainable wood fuel source and a tree nursery. The income from these business operations would then create a funding stream to help establish different social enterprise activities such as vocational training programmes, access projects, trails, conservation/outdoor education areas, cultural heritage and environmental interpretation, and green burials.
The management of the forest includes adhering to commitments and development opportunities outlined in the Long-Term Forest Plan (LTFP). This includes a clear re-stocking plan and other social enterprise opportunities. Following the implementation of the LTFP, habitat and natural capital projects were developed. These include:
- Peatland restoration to increase biodiversity, community access, improve water quality and sequester carbon
- Wider tree planting to ensure an excellent mix of native species to improve biodiversity, health, wellbeing, and education
- Path and trail network to link different areas of the woodland and improve access
- Development of a Forest School site to promote outdoor education
- Development of a tree nursery to provide locally grown trees for use in the forest
- Development of a gathering and picnic area at an old fank
- Implementation of environmental and cultural interpretation throughout the forest
- Development of a hydro scheme to help decarbonise the grid and generate a source of income for the local community and SCT.
Community benefits were initially identified via a community consultation that was facilitated by an external advisor (provided by FCS to ensure impartiality) as part of the feasibility study into the purchase of the land. The opportunities have been added to/amended via various open days, AGMs and other public meetings held in the years following acquisition of the land. All subsequent engagement has been organised by the Board of Trustees following feedback from the community. SCT have found that these sessions work best if there is a clear structure to the overall objective of the session, as well as having a fixed agenda. This stimulates discussion and wider thinking which can raise additional points/benefits to consider.
Several community benefits have been achieved from the project including access to locally produced sustainable wood fuel, health and wellbeing benefits, education and recreation benefits, improved access and trails, cultural heritage information and restoration of derelict sites. Economic benefits have also included the creation of part-time employment as a machine operator to move and processed wood and one-off contracts with local businesses, e.g. artists, ecologists, and education providers.