£2m-plus sought for Bute forest development

BCLC and Bute Forest director Emma Cooper.
BCLC and Bute Forest director Emma Cooper.

The owners of Bute’s community forest are hoping to secure a funding package of more than £2 million to support their development plans for the north end of the island.

The Bute Community Land Company estimates that £2.140 million will be needed from outside funders to turn their plans for a forest centre, cafe, meeting room, accommodation, car parking, paths, cycle routes, moorings and more from a dream into reality.

The company’s development plans have already been submitted to Argyll and Bute Council for planning approval, and feedback is awaited from the Big Lottery Fund following the submission of a draft ‘stage 2’ application last month for support of £1 million from the Growing Community Assets programme.

The plans include ‘glamping’ accommodation for around 30 people in a variety of yurts, pods and shepherd’s huts.

BCLC director Emma Cooper told last week’s AGM of VisitBute: “We’ve done a fair amount of market research which shows that the kind of accommodation we want to provide is the sort of accommodation Bute is lacking, and that this is what people want.

“Hopefully it will bring a new kind of visitor to the island.”

The estimated capital funding required for the construction of the facilities is £1,903,277, comprising £115,000 for site services/preparation, £798,000 for the forest centre and cafe; £434,000 for accommodation and related facilities; £67,290 for paths, trails and moorings; £19,788 in professional fees; £315,240 in VAT; £11,387 in planning costs; plus a contingency fund of £141,492.

The company estimates a total project cost for the first five years of the scheme of £2,627,025, including revenue support and overhead costs, though for the latter two they hope to secure funding of almost £237,000.

BCLC’s directors hope to raise the £2.1 million through successful applications to, among others, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Rural Development Programme, the Scottish and UK governments and the People’s Postcode Lottery.