Clock ticks for Highland community with days to raise £1.7m to buy deserted estate

The clock is ticking for a Highland community which has just six days left to raise £1.7m to buy a deserted estate.

The Killandine Estate overlooking the Sound of Mull. PIC: Jim Manthorpe.
The Killandine Estate overlooking the Sound of Mull. PIC: Jim Manthorpe.

Residents of the Morvern peninsula in the West Highlands have been given £1m of public money to purchase the 6,000 acre Killundine Estate, which overlooks the Sound of Mull.

But if they cannot find the remaining £1.7m by October 31, the offer from the Scottish Land Fund is withdrawn.

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Killundine is owned by brother and sister Roderick and Althea Lauder, who are sympathetic to the commnuity bid, with it understood that the last person to live on the estate moved out five years ago.

The Killandine Estate Morvern river. PIC: Jim Manthorpe.

Morvern Community Woodlands, the resident led-group behind the purchase, wants to restore the estate homes to create affordable housing and working crofts to generate business opportunities for residents.

Alasdair Firth, a director of the group, said a planned visit to Morvern from a potential “philanthropic donor” next week had boosted optimism within the community.

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Mr Firth said: “We haven’t had any completely firm offers but we have been speaking to some potential big donors and hopefully we will get things firmed up.

“If it all works out, we will be going over the £2m and be a few hundred thousand off the total.

“The prospects are there and things are starting to line up although the discussions are very much ongoing.

“The whole thing has been up and down – but at the same time you can’t help but put all your energy into it. Six weeks ago we were at a low point but the closer we get we feel we are in grasp of it.

The Killundine Estate appeal crowdfunder has been launched on Localgiving in a final push for the money.

Mr Firth added: “The community in Movern is starting to change. Rather that it just being a place of second homes or just the village we can have people back living on the land and making a living on the land.

"Give people a smallholding and they can do what they want with it. They can use it for chickens, for other livestock, for crafts, for a mechanical business.

"Without these opportunities, people don’t want to live here. We are tyring to put the whole thing back together.”

Meanwhile, Jeremy Leggett, former Greenpeace director and solar power entrepreneur, has donated £17,000 towards the purchase of Killundine. He recently purchased Bunloit Estate near Loch Ness to pursue his ‘wildland’ vision and create local jobs.

He suggested non-Scots who purchase large properties and land should pay a supplementary tax to directly support communities like Morvern in their land ownership aims.

Mr Leggett said: “Taking folk like me originally from southern England as example, in many cases we are selling properties with ridiculously inflated prices.

"As a result, for the price of a modest terraced house in south London some of us can now buy small Scottish estates. This is surely not a good thing for wider society. It amplifies inequality.”

Community Land Scotland has proposed a Rural New Deal which amends Land and Buildings Transaction Tax to include an escalating supplement on sales of private estates over a specific scale to private or other non-community owners. The extra revenue generated would be added to the Scottish Land Fund to support community buyouts.

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