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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Forest land grab scheme launched
North Harris
People in remote areas will be able to launch a buyout
Rural communities will be able to buy Forestry Commission land which is not on the market and build new homes on the land, under a new scheme.

Ministers launched the National Forest Land project at Abriachan, near Inverness - where residents bought part of the local forest seven years ago.

The commission has already teamed up with 80 communities across Scotland.

Housing associations and trusts, under the scheme, will be able to buy forest land for affordable housing.

Communities will also be able to make moves for surplus forestry land which the forestry organisation is proposing to sell.

The plan builds on the Land Reform Act, but goes a step further, allowing communities to open talks with the Forestry Commission - even where land is not for sale.

Buyout help

The body - according to the Scottish Executive - is still one of the nation's biggest landowners, managing two thirds of a million hectares across the country.

Ministers have said that where communities can prove there will be a benefit, they could apply for government backing to make a buyout.

The plan was outlined last year in a paper entitled The National Forest Land scheme.

The commission and Communities Scotland had looked at offering forestry land to increase the availability of affordable housing.

Deputy Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Lewis Macdonald said at the time national forests offered great potential in economic, environmental and social terms.

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