New Bute forest business model set to seek shareholders

Bute Community Land Company hopes to form a new business model which would see operation of a commercial timber business on its land transferred to a new company, Bute Forest Enterprises Ltd.
Bute Community Land Company hopes to form a new business model which would see operation of a commercial timber business on its land transferred to a new company, Bute Forest Enterprises Ltd.

A search has been launched for members of the public willing to pay up to £400 for a share in a new company being set up as a commercial timber business in Bute’s community forest.

Bute Forest Enterprises (BFE) plans to lease the commercial forest owned by Bute Community Land Company near Rhubodach at the north end of the island, and wants to hear from up to 20 members of the public interested in buying a share.

The new business model, expected to be sanctioned soon by the BCLC board, will see BFE operate autonomously, with their only obligation being to achieve thinning targets in the forest and to encourage public access and involvement in the land.

As well as paying an annual rent, BFE will lease equipment and timber extraction rights on an environmentally-friendly ‘continuous cover’ basis.

BCLC director Jim Mitchell said the new company would not consider clear-felling of the area.

On the share price of £400, Mr Mitchell said: “This figure may be less if the shares are fully subscribed. This investment will cover start-up costs such as insurances and salaries for the short time required until income begins to flow.

“Each shareholder will be required to commit to a small number of hours work for the company; whether in the forest or in an administrative role. The company will listen positively to suggestions for entrepreneurial involvement.

“There are many hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of timber available to be converted to high value products and while returns may be modest to begin with, investors should see a reasonable return on their investment. Shareholders with special skills may also become subcontractors to BFEL.

Should the shareholding be oversubscribed, applicants will be selected on the basis of what they can contribute to the project.

“A second category shall be a volunteer corps - ‘Forest Friends’ who can assist on the public amenity side of things, such as maintaining the kayak campsite and the trails.

“No monies will be taken, only pledges, until the target investment is met, at which point the share price (£400 or less) will be set. Should the required capital not be raised, the project will not proceed.

“It is seen very much as a community company and that is the driving ethos; creating jobs and opportunities for all.”