Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Islanders on Bute back Attenborough buyout

Campaigners will need to raise about 1.4m in order to buy the land

Islanders on Bute in the Firth of Clyde have backed a community plan to buy almost 2,000 acres of land owned by film director Richard Attenborough.

Organisers of a referendum on the issue said more than 2,700 people took part, with 93% in favour.

The land, known as Rhubodach Forest, is at the northern end of Bute and offers spectacular views of Argyll.

The Bute Community Land Company needs to raise £1.4m for the purchase, which requires Scottish government approval.

The vote was Scotland's biggest ever ballot on a community buyout proposal.

Forms were sent out to about 5,200 people on Bute on 25 January.

The count revealed that 2,557 out of 2,739 ballot papers were in favour of the plans.

This is the first step along a very long road. The community has spoken. There is a real appetite for this to happen
Peter McDonald
Bute Community Land Company

Peter McDonald, a director of Bute Community Land Company (BCLC), which organised the vote, said: "We are absolutely overwhelmed. That is a phenomenal result.

"We needed 2,610 people to vote and for 50% of those to vote yes. A total of 93% of the votes said yes.

"There were moments in the last few weeks that we thought we would not get the turnout required but in the end more than 50% of people voted."

Lord and Lady Attenborough put Rhubodach Forest up for sale last August.

They have not commented publicly on the community buyout proposal.

Grant aim

Friday's ballot result and a feasibility study for the buy-out will be presented to the Scottish government by Tuesday. The BCLC has until the end of May to raise the £1.4m needed for the purchase.

Mr McDonald added: "The government has got to give us the formal go-ahead. Once we get that we have to go and get the money.

"This is the first step along a very long road. The community has spoken. There is a real appetite for this to happen.

"We feel very confident that we can do this. We are hoping a lot of it will be grant-funded."

Islanders who back the buyout proposal believe community ownership will allow the forest to become a destination for eco-tourism, with improved access for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders.

Wood from the forest would also be used to provide carbon neutral heating for homes in Bute, while many local business owners believe the plan could help attract a new generation of visitors to the island.

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