Southern Scotland’s biggest community buyout set to go ahead after successful fundraiser

One of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen was successful last month as a community buyout sum of £3.8 million for over 5,000 acres of land in Southern Scotland was met.

The agreement, which was struck between The Langholm Initiative charity and Buccleuch, will pave the way for the creation of a huge new nature reserve to help tackle climate change, restore nature, and support community regeneration.

Discussions are set to continue over the remaining 5,300 acres of land which the community has also expressed an interest in buying.

Margaret Pool, Chair of The Langholm Initiative, said the “amazing result” will live “long in the memory”.

“Our community has a strong cultural connection to this land, which has never been sold before, and securing it for generations to come means so much to so many. Huge thanks to Buccleuch for their positive engagement,” she added.

Benny Higgins, Executive Chairman of Buccleuch, also expressed his delight with the agreement and said it “demonstrates what can be achieved when everyone involved is committed to working together”.

He added: “Engaging constructively with the communities in which we operate as a business is important to us. We have a long-standing policy of reducing our overall footprint to enable us to invest in other projects, and will continue this policy of selling land to interested farmers, community bodies and organisations which express an interest.”

The purchase, which is to be finalised by January 2021, will lead to the creation of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, with globally important peatlands and ancient woods restored, native woodlands established, and a haven ensured for wildlife including rare hen harriers. 

The project will also support community regeneration, including thorough plans for the community to capitalise on new nature-based tourism opportunities.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Land Reform, called the agreement a “momentous moment” and praised both parties.

“This is significant news for the South of Scotland but also demonstrates that, when working together with a shared goal, local communities can be a power vehicle for change. I applaud the Initiative wholeheartedly for realising their ambition and look forward to it inspiring other community groups to drive and deliver their own projects right across the country,” she added.  

After months of incredible fundraising efforts, The Langholm Initiative has successfully secured 5,000 acres of land which it plans to turn into a nature reserve. (David Lintern, John Muir Trust)

The Langholm Initiative had until 31 October to raise the funds for the deal, to avoid the Scottish Land Fund withdrawing their £1 million offer which left the community with just months to raise millions of pounds for the buyout.

At times during the summer, the project appeared to be seriously at risk but in the run-up to the deadline, Buccleuch Estates and The Langholm Initiative agreed a revised £3.8 million price for the purchase.  

With The Langholm Initiative still requiring substantial funding in the final weeks, £500,000 was secured from the Bently Foundation. 

The final week up to the deadline saw an extraordinary surge of more than £50,000 in donations to the charity’s public crowdfunder – including £24,000 on one day alone which saw the appeal’s £200,000 target achieved.

In the final 48 hours before the deadline, with the community still some £150,000 short of the total funds needed, The Woodland Trust agreed to contribute £200,000 to the project which took The Langholm Initiative over the line and secured the agreement.

After the contribution that secured the agreement, Carol Evans, Director of Woodland Trust Scotland, said the trust was “thrilled” to support the Initiative’s plans and that the nature reserve will help “fightback” the threat of climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

Since its launch on 7 May, nearly 4,000 people had supported the community buyout fundraiser.

John Watt, Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair, said the Scottish Land Fund was “proud” to support the Initiative with a £1 million award.

Langholm Initiative project leader Kevin Cumming praised the community ownership and said it could be a “catalyst for regeneration with environment at its heart”.

“We hope the success here will encourage and inspire other communities in Scotland and across the UK. Realizing the full potential of community ownership will take time – and the hard work is really just about to begin,” he added.

The Langholm Initiative, formed in 1994 as one of south Scotland’s first development trusts, facilitates projects making a lasting difference to the local area and people.

You can learn more about the incredible fundraising efforts of the community buyout and the amazing work The Langholm Initiative does on their website.

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