Landmark decision paves the way for the Knocknagael charity to take the Scottish Government owned green field at Knocknagael into community ownership
12 September 2023
The result of a review into a decision to refuse a request to transfer ownership of the Smiddy Field at Knocknagael to community ownership through the provisions of the Community Empowerment Act (2015) is now available. Following a detailed and lengthy process, an independent panel has recommended that the original decision to refuse the asset transfer be overturned, subject to a number of conditions, and Scottish Government ministers have accepted this recommendation.
The report from the review will be posted this week.
Maria de la Torre, Chairman of Knocknagael Ltd said:
After almost eight years, we are over the moon with the news of the Ministerial decision ordering the transfer of the Smiddy Field to the community to progress.
We cannot believe we have finally reached the point where we are able to move. This has been a long road with hours of volunteer time dedicated to the project. While we still have much to do, it feels like a momentous milestone in the journey, and we hope the decisive advice from the panel recommending the asset transfer goes ahead is followed by a speedy response from RPID, the Scottish Government department. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take forward a transformative project to benefit Inverness communities which will also safeguard the future of the farm.
We are grateful to the panel for their detailed work on the case and for their fairness.
The Review Panel’s report and Minister’s decision are huge steps forward in delivering for the community. We still have quite a way to go before finalising matters, such as securing funding and agreeing specific conditions of transfer. We want to thank everyone who supported us and helped us get this far. We look forward to a good working relationship with all partners and neighbours including the farm at Knocknagael.
We would not have got to this stage without the support of members and partner organisations. We are particularly grateful to colleagues from our partner organisations for their support during the hearing (Action for Children, Centred, Homeless Trust and Highland Good Food Partnership). We are also grateful for the invaluable assistance provided by DTAS (Development Trusts Association Scotland) and HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise) with the process, and by Community Enterprise in the development of the plans for the project. Others that have supported the project include Inverness Incredible Edible, Community Woods Association, and Community Land Scotland. The project is a collaborative endeavour.”
Drew Hendry MP said:
“This is fantastic news for local people, and it is a recognition of the determination, drive and vision of the neighbourhood volunteers who make up the Knocknagael company. It has been a pleasure to support their efforts over the years. They deserve a lot of praise for getting to this stage. I’m also grateful to the Scottish Government Minister, Tom Arthur MSP for listening to local people, seeing what an opportunity this is, and acting to allow this. I know that building an even stronger sense of community through this green hub project at Knocknagael is at the heart of the plans. There is a lot of work still to be done but this is a great start”
Ariane Burgess MSP said:
“Having worked with the community for some time, and made their case in Parliament, this decision is testament to the tenacity and commitment of the volunteers who have led this process over the last eight years. As one of Europe’s fastest-growing cities, it’s vital that Inverness balances the need to create homes with the needs of communities to access and make use of our green space.
Knocknagael’s plans to develop the Smiddy Field site into a community green hub are exactly what Inverness needs as volume housebuilders seek to free up more land to expand the urban sprawl.
“This decision demonstrates the possibilities offered by the Scottish Government’s new planning framework that prioritises tackling our climate and nature emergencies and acknowledges the need to provide more local food growing spaces in cities.”
For more information, download the full press release.
Maria de la Torre