SOUTHERN Scotland’s largest community buyout is set to go ahead after one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever held.
The Langholm Initiative has agreed a deal with Buccleuch to buy 5,200 acres of Langholm Moor after raising the final funds needed in the nick of time.
The landmark community buyout agreement of £3.8m paves the way for the creation of a huge new nature reserve to help tackle climate change, restore nature and support community regeneration.
Discussions will continue over the remaining 5,300 acres of land the community has expressed an interest in buying.
The purchase, to be finalised by next January, will lead to the creation of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, with globally-important peatlands and ancient woods restored, native woodlands established and a haven ensured for wildlife, including rare hen harriers.
The project will also support community regeneration, including through plans for the community to capitalise on new nature-based tourism opportunities.
The Langholm Initiative had until last Saturday to raise the funds for a deal and avoid the Scottish Land Fund withdrawing its £1m offer, a proviso which left the community with only months to raise millions of pounds.
At times during the summer the project appeared to be seriously at risk.
In the run-up to the deadline Buccleuch and the Initiative agreed a revised £3.8m price for the purchase.
With the Initiative still needing substantial funding in the final weeks, £500,000 was secured from the Bently Foundation.
Camille Bently, director of the Bently Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to support this community-led environmental project.
“We wish them every success and look forward to visiting the new Tarras Valley Nature Reserve in the future.”
During the final week an extraordinary surge of more than £50,000 of donations to the charity’s public crowdfunder, including £24,000 on one day alone, meant the appeal’s £200,000 target was achieved and topped.
Nearly 4,000 people have supported the crowdfunding appeal since its launch on May 7.
In the final 48 hours before the deadline, and with the community still some £150,000 short of the total funds needed, the Woodland Trust agreed to contribute £200,000 to the project, taking the Langholm Initiative over the line.
Kevin Cumming, project leader, said: “The support for our vision has been overwhelming.
“We can never thank the major donors and thousands of members of the public enough for their contributions.
“A team of dedicated people have worked tirelessly to achieve something special here, most of them volunteers, who continued to strive to make this happen against what, at times, felt like impossible odds.
“Community ownership can be a catalyst for regeneration, which we want to show can be done with the environment at its heart.
“We hope the success here will encourage and inspire other communities in Scotland and in the UK.
“Realising the full potential of community ownership will take time – and the hard work is really just about to begin.”
Margaret Pool, who chairs the Langholm Initiative, added: “This is an amazing result for Langholm and will live long in the memory.
“Our community has a strong cultural connection to this land, which has never been sold before, and securing it for generations to come means so much to so many.
“Huge thanks to Buccleuch for their positive engagement.”
Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have reached a significant agreement with the Langholm Initiative and this deal shows what can be achieved when everyone involved is committed to working together.
“The community has done a tremendous job in raising the funds to make this historic acquisition and the plan to create a nature reserve has attracted widespread support. We wish the project every success.
“Engaging constructively with the communities, in which we operate as a business, is important to us.
“We have a long-standing policy of reducing our overall footprint to enable us to invest in other projects and will continue this policy of selling land to interested farmers, community bodies and organisations which express an interest.”
Other major funders to the buyout include South of Scotland Enterprise, John Muir Trust, Carman Family Foundation and Garfield Weston Foundation.
Other leading charities, which have supported the buyout, include Borders Forest Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Trees for Life.