How much is the estate being sold for?
MCW and the current owners have negotiated a sale price for estate of £2.45 million, which is substantially below the valuation.
How did you work out the value of the estate?
The purchase price of the estate has been negotiated and is based on an independent valuation of the estate. Other costs have been calculated as part of the business plan prepared for Killundine by Duncan MacPherson and Faye MacLeod of Campbell Stewart MacLennan.
What other funding has MCW secured?
MCW have negotiated a substantial discount on the sale price of the estate from the current owners. We can’t disclose the exact amount, but it is a substantial amount.
Who will own the estate?
The estate will be owned by Morvern Community Woodlands, a company limited by guarantee that is fully controlled by local residents of Morvern by its constitution which also ensures against asset stripping or profits leaving the community.
Is MCW a charity?
MCW is in the process of becoming a charitable trust.
What are MCW’s plans for the estate? What is the vision?
MCW have a vision for Killundine Estate as “a living, working 21st century estate promoting the repopulation and regeneration of Morvern and the conservation of its natural environment”. In essence, the timber value contained in the forestry on the estate will be released and the capital used to develop a financially sustainable management model prioritising: affordable housing; land for new crofts; environmentally friendly management benefiting biodiversity and maximising carbon sequestration to combat climate change.
How will ownership of Killundine encourage economic, social and environmental development?
Community ownership of Killundine will support local businesses and residents by providing access to land, accommodation and business premises that are appropriate to people’s needs and resources. Community ownership will provide new-build and refurbished accommodation with a range of tenures, responding to the demand from local residents as it develops. We will be able to develop renewable energy schemes. New crofts on good agricultural land will contribute to a sustainable, low carbon local food supply. Community ownership will allow us to develop productive woodland and forestry that can be managed locally over a timespan that covers hundreds rather than tens of years. Taking control of a large area of the poorer hill ground will enable stalking management to be balanced with habitat restoration. Community ownership will also allow us to balance the development of carbon sequestration across the estate with the revenue opportunities of tourism and the access needs of local residents.
How will community ownership of the estate address challenges in the local community?
The local community is diverse and has a wide range of skills, but it is aging, and the primary school roll is continuing to fall – despite being the only one in the Highlands to be rated as ‘exceptional’. It is very hard for young people who want to stay in Morvern to find a place to live, even if they have a job here. Killundine has the resources that future generations on Morvern will need in order to face existing and new challenges and will encourage new people and business to come into the community. You can read the business plan for a more detailed explanation of this.
How will the estate be managed?
The estate will be run by suitably qualified staff members who will be employed by Morvern Community Woodlands and/or Morvern Community Development Company and managed by an elected board. We will intend to recruit three new staff members in the first year: a development manager, a project manager and a forester.
Does MCW have the skills to run the Estate?
The estate will be run by suitable qualified staff supervised by the board and with the input of additional advisors, who we are already working with. The current board of directors of MCW have experience in business management, forestry, construction and tourism development. Within the local community we have skills and experience at all levels of land management including estate management, stalking, forestry, crofting, farming, tourism development, mining, renewables, marine transport and construction.
The development programme accompanying community ownership will allow partnerships for training and learning with institutions like University of the Highlands and Islands and the Scottish School of Forestry and approaches have already been made to these bodies. This has the potential to lead to local apprenticeships and other benefits for the local community.
How will this help our community have a stronger role and control over our own development?
Owning Killundine will allow the people of Morvern to control what happens on part of the peninsula. It will provide the opportunity for the range of skills and experience amongst the community to contribute to its future resilience and sustainability. We will be able to form new partnerships with local organisations and participate in local planning and decision making.
How will the land management on the estate fit with traditional local land management, how will the right decisions be made – and how will it be secure financially?
The Morvern community has a long history and connection with the land. In our own lifetimes, land management on the peninsula has changed, with a focus on forestry developing in the 1960s and market and subsidy-driven changes in livestock management more recently. Community ownership will allow decisions to be based on a wide range of objectives set by a board of elected members of the local community. Community ownership will ensure that assets on the estate are developed to provide stable long-term returns while ensuring rents are affordable for local residents and businesses. Financial sustainability is key to the effective and productive management of community assets.
Is the purchase of Killundine Estate financially viable?
A business plan which demonstrates the strong financial viability of community ownership has been prepared.
Is there a risk this will become a debt burden on the community?
The business plan demonstrates strong financial viability without resource to long-term borrowing or substantial future grant funding.
How will you track progress to see if goals are being achieved?
We will use both quantative and qualitative measures to track progress towards our objectives. The new staff will form a link between the management of the estate, the MCW board, special advisors and the wider community and will ensure that there is a constant two-way relationship between planning and what happens on the ground.
Without a ballot how do you know the community want this to happen?
MCW were unable to conduct a ballot because of Covid 19. The proposals laid out in the application to SLF have had a great deal of input from local people with a wide range of engagement and consultation events taking place since 2017. Community ownership of Killundine is supported by the local development company MCDC and by Morvern Community Council. In 2018, 63 local people signed a petition in support of this within two weeks when MCW registered an interest in Killundine estate under Community Right to Buy legislation. MCW membership (from an electorate of around 300 residents in Morvern) increased to 122 at this time. Consultants have carried out a comprehensive consultation with the local community which is presented in the accompanying feasibility report. MCW intend to carry out a ballot at a suitable point in future.
How has the community buyout of Killundine Estate been publicised within the community?
MCW has continually sought the opinions of those who live in Morvern. We have always recognised that the success of the project requires the community’s support. We have used a variety of media to communicate via public meetings, social media, website, email, public meetings, posters, art and film always stressing that Killundine under community ownership means just that: the community determine management and how it should evolve.
Naturally, there are some people who are opposed the idea (for example, on general grounds that ‘taxpayer’s money should not be spent on community purchases’) but we have been encouraged by sustained community support. We have been at pains to be inclusive, recognising that even those who see no benefit from the purchase have an equal right to be informed and listened to when considering possible plans.
Is the cost of Killundine Estate worth the benefit to the community?
The cost of the purchase is large. However, the price negotiated with the owners includes a substantial discount which the owners have offered because they believe community ownership is the best option for positive future management of Killundine. The directors of MCW consider this to be a very good deal and a significant opportunity which will not arise again. In future, the money invested in the estate will be recouped for the government through the taxes paid on the ongoing business and housing ventures that will be developed on the estate; in the long term this will result in a net gain for the taxpayer as well as for the local community.
Would a privately funded venture achieve the goals more successfully and free up SLF money for another cause?
The proposals in the business plan developed by the consultants would be very unlikely to be put forward by any private owner. They essentially spread the ownership of the asset in the community, prevent extraction of benefits from the estate into other funds and stop any profits from development on the estate being used for other means outside Morvern. They also prevent future sale of the estate at a profit. None of this would be achieved by private ownership.
Will the large-scale export of timber be too expensive at the West Pier? Will this put extra stress on our roads?
Around one third of the value of the timber on Killundine will be lost due to levies on transport out of Morvern – and it is worth noting that little if any of this money will come to Morvern itself. MCW is exploring options which would lead to a more favourable situation for the export of timber from Morvern via the pier rather than the additional costs and impacts of using the A897. It is likely the pier owners may look more favourably on a community owner and new legislation is coming in to force that will allow a community owner to use the pier at a standard reasonable market rate.
How will community ownership of Killundine mitigate an event like COVID-19?
In the ongoing emergency, the Morvern community has shown itself to be proactive and responsive. Vulnerable people in the community have been well supported thanks to the efforts of the wider community and individuals and there has been a general feeling of people looking out for one another and pulling together. Places like Morvern, where there is a strong community spirit and established ways of dealing with crises show that bottom-up support is of great benefit. Morvern’s remoteness is often considered a constraint, but in circumstances like this it is also an asset. We are certain that in future many more people will want to live in Morvern where, should something along similar lines ever happen again, there are opportunities both to live somewhere where access to the countryside is easy and to have the support networks of a strong local community. However, a core issue with the demographics of Morvern is that there is an aging population; without the support of younger people, which requires opportunities for them to live and work here, it will be increasingly hard to deal with difficult circumstances.
Community ownership of Killundine will help address the provision of accommodation for health-care workers. No council- or state-owned doctor’s house currently exists.
Shouldn’t the money be used for more important issues going on right now?
There are clearly many demands on public finances with the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, the funding towards purchase of the estate will be an investment for the long-term which will increase local and national resilience against future crises by creating jobs and protecting the environment.
The Scottish Land Fund is ring-fenced to be spent on the acquisition of assets for long-term community development, so it cannot be used for any other purpose than for communities purchasing land or buildings.
What other opportunities will community ownership bring?
There are a whole range of different opportunities yet to be explored whose viability will only become viable with more detailed input and proposals – if you have ideas, please let us know!