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Rothiemurchus – A cross subsidy model

This former sawmill site lies within the Cairngorms National Park in a beautiful and very desirable rural location. The area is popular with visitors looking for holiday accommodation, for second homes and for people moving from more valuable market areas as a lifestyle choice. This means properties are highly sought after and many local families, including middle income earners, are unable to access the property market.


The Rothiemurchus Estate has worked with four local families and the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) to develop a no subsidy housing model on the brownfield site. A deal was structured in 2011 for four plots to be sold to the community at a fraction of market value with an undertaking to secure planning permission and service two other plots, to be sold by the landowner on the open market. HSCHT acted as facilitators to buy the land and project manage the layout and infrastructure, before selling the plots on to the local families.

Planning approval for this site next to a site of specified scientific interest (SSSI) complicated legal process, high servicing and build costs and limited mortgage availability have made this an incredibly challenging project. It is only now that the four houses are being built and one of the landowner's sites is on the market. But the no subsidy model has been proved to work. It should be possible to replicate it in other situations, especially in areas where private plots can achieve strong market interest.

Benefits and Lessons Learned

This case study highlights how a collaborative partnership approach with facilitation can achieve ‘marriage value.’ It can help to unlock projects that may otherwise stall, helping to increase supply in ‘hotspot’ areas. However, the fact that it has taken a decade (from when the landowner and community first agreed the commercial basis of a deal) to get to the current stage highlights just how complicated and slow rural housing delivery can be. The process is likely to have been smoother and quicker in a less environmentally sensitive area and/or if the community group had more support and resource at an earlier stage.

Find Out More

More detail about the challenges and positive outcomes from this project are included in more detail in the report 'The Role of Land in Enabling New Housing Supply in Rural Scotland.'

Plots under construction at Rothiemurchus