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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 06:03 GMT 07:03 UK
Funding for island buy-out study
Loch Bi, South Uist - image supplied by Graham Leary
The estates cover South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula
Islanders have been awarded 7,000 to conduct a feasibility study into what could be Scotland's largest community land buy-out.

Residents on the 93,000-acre South Uist estate in the Western Isles were given the cash by the Scottish Land Fund.

The estate comprises the islands of Eriskay and South Uist and a large proportion of Benbecula.

The award formed part of almost 40,000 given by the land fund to five rural communities for similar projects.

Community purchase

The South Uist Community Steering Group was given 7,534 to commission its buy-out study.

Steering group vice-chairman Angus MacMillan said: "We are all delighted that we have got to this stage and are now able to look at valuations for this estate which could be the first step in any potential community purchase.

"There's a long way to go but this valuation marks the real start of this process."

Negotiations are under way between the estate's 3,000 residents and their landlords - a nine-family syndicate.

Concerns had been raised that land legislation reforms could allow the fragmentation of the area's interests by private ventures.

These grants mean that these rural communities are able to move forward in developing their own plans for the future
David Campbell
Scottish Land Fund

In addition, the PAIRC Trust in south-east Lewis will receive a grant of 13,117 to investigate the possibility of purchasing its estate.

In North Harris, residents will receive 8,946 for an investigation into the possible purchase of the 7,000-acre Loch Seaforth Estate.

On the Highland mainland, the community of Lairg is to use its 4,736 award to buy an 8.5-acre area of land for local use and residents of the village of Poolewe, in Ross and Cromarty, are to purchase an area of land for a community car park following their 4,117 award.

The National Lottery-backed Scottish Land Fund distributes money for community land initiatives.

Chairman David Campbell said: "These grants mean that these rural communities are able to move forward in developing their own plans for the future and I am delighted that the Scottish Land Fund is able to offer funding in all these cases.

Awarded money

"Technical assistance grants are vital when a community is considering such a huge step as a land buy-out.

"Ensuring that communities can access professional advice means that they can make the right decisions as to what might be right for them in the future."

Elsewhere in Scotland, a South Lanarkshire community was awarded money to look into another buy-out.

Residents in Biggar were given 3,330 to look into the possibility of purchasing Little Michell Wood, a neglected area of land on the eastern outskirts of the town, currently owned by Lord Clydesmuir.

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