South West Mull and Iona Development (SWMID) has been awarded £750,000 to support the acquisition of Tiroran Forest on the Isle of Mull from Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS). This is a huge milestone in the journey which will see the 792 hectares of forest move under community ownership.
The forest will be run as a commercial enterprise and will provide a means of sustainable income generation for the local community and the creation of three new jobs in the first year of ownership. In the early years the company will generate adequate funds to put it on a secure financial footing, thereafter it will be in the position to support local initiatives. A skills development and training programme will be developed to build the capacity of the community to become fully engaged in the management of the forest.
The next steps will be to secure the remaining key elements within our overall funding package and to further consult with the local community to discuss and prioritise potential projects within the forest. An access programme with increased interpretation for visitors and locals, sites for woodland crofts, plans for the long term future of the forest, improved biodiversity and development of archaeological sites are among ideas which been discussed and we are now one step closer to investigating these more fully
SWMID believe that the project could unlock opportunities for the community which will lead to the regeneration of the local area and will provide people with the means to address many of the issues which affect them. More employment opportunities, support for local businesses, sustainable tourism opportunities and improved facilities for visitors and local people are benefits which SWMID envisage as a result of the project.
Morven Gibson, Local Development Officer, SWMID, said “Much work has gone into the project over the last few years and this is an enormous boost for local people. We are getting closer to Tiroran Forest becoming an income generating, community owned asset which will be managed by the community, for the community. South West Mull and Iona Development is a new organisation and our thanks go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Land Fund for their support throughout this process”.
South West Mull and Iona Development is Community Account managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Kerrien Grant, Head of Strengthening Communities, Argyll and the Islands said “The community of South West Mull and Iona has been account managed by HIE since 2011 and the acquisition of Tiroran forest is a leading example of what ambitious communities can achieve through dedication and commitment. The group has worked incredibly hard to develop income generating projects for the benefit of the community. The acquisition of the forest is set to offer significant opportunities for improving wider sustainable development, such as through employment, volunteering, recreation and land management”.