The owners of Bute’s community forest have been given the green light to apply for almost £1 million from the National Lottery.
The Bute Community Land Company (BCLC) has been invited to submit a stage 2 application for the Growing Community Assets fund, part of the Big Lottery Fund’s range of grant programmes, to fund the construction of an ecological forest centre and lodge accommodation in the commercial section of the forest at Rhubodach in the north of the island.
The funds, if granted, will also support the first year of operation, including training programmes and marketing.
The application process has two stages, and BCLC has passed the first of these, where the need for the project, the fit with the grant guidelines and the ability of the organisation to deliver the project are all assessed.
The bid was submitted by Bute Forest Ltd as the subsidiary company of BCLC responsible for delivery of the community’s objectives for the forest.
Bute Forest Ltd is now starting the process of developing the stage 2 application - a process which includes detailed building design, market research into the types of visitors the project will attract and business planning to ensure the project is financially sustainable.
It is hoped that this development work will be completed within eight months, and an outcome from the stage 2 application can be expected early next year.
Bute Forest’s directors issued a statement saying: “We have been presented with a virtually unique opportunity to take a huge step towards the realisation of the most ambitious objectives outlined for our forest right at the beginning.
“If our stage 2 bid is successful, the accommodation will attract a new generation of visitors to the island and the forest centre will bring the forest alive for many more people, both locals and visitors, by providing a base for training, volunteering, education and community events.
“Input from members and the wider community will be essential in ensuring we can complete the stage 2 application.”
Bute Forest is holding a drop-in evening at Bute Museum on Thursday, February 27 from 5.30pm to 8.30pm, when members of the public can find out more about what has been happening and what will happen in the forest.
The directors’ statement continued: “Fantastic steps forward are being taken by a number of organisations on Bute towards improving the local economy. We hope that the evening will bring the support we need for realising the contribution our great community asset can make in that direction.
“People can also find out about our fantastic free event programme taking place this spring.
“We have a long way to go and these processes take time, but we are confident that we have a good chance of securing the full project funding required.
“Community ownership of land within Scotland is a very topical issue at the moment and we are proud to be demonstrating here on Bute that it can work.”
Membership of BCLC is free and enables people to have a more direct say in how the project progresses, while progress updates are posted on BCLC’s website and Facebook page.
The building will conform to the values identified by the community in the early stages of the project. These include being accessible, using local materials and suppliers where possible, complimenting the landscape and being ecological in design and running.
The Growing Community Assets grant programme is designed to ‘support communities to take more control and influence over their own future through ownership of assets’.
It is one of the grant programmes managed by the Big Lottery Fund and funded through the National Lottery.