ONE million pounds has been awarded to the Langholm Moor community buy-out which must raise £6.4m in total to buy 10,500 acres of land from Buccleuch.
The Scottish Land Fund (SLF) made the award to the Langholm Initiative, which is running the project, but this is £2m short of what it applied for.
The community now has only until the end of October to raise the remaining £5.4m; otherwise, the SLF will withdraw its grant.
A crowdfunder was launched recently and has so far raised £85,000, along with a £100,000 donation from the John Muir Trust.
If successful, the Initiative will create the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. It would be southern Scotland’s largest community buy-out.
Margaret Pool, Initiative chairwoman, said: “We very much appreciate the SLF’s award.
“It’s well below the £3m we applied for but we know these are difficult times.
“The award is time-limited so we have just months to raise the rest for the once-in-a lifetime purchase.
“Langholm Moor holds huge cultural significance to us and we’re working tirelessly to bring this land into community ownership as part of a groundbreaking project to tackle climate change, boost nature restoration and support community regeneration.”
The nature reserve would restore globally-important peatlands and ancient woods, establish new native woodlands and ensure a vital haven for iconic wildlife, including much-persecuted hen harriers.
The Initiative is urging people to support its Go Fund Me crowdfunding appeal at www.gofundme.com/langholm-moor-buyout.
In its first few weeks this has raised £85,000 from more than 1,200 donors.
Major funders are being sought. Kevin Cumming, project leader, said: “We appreciate the offer from the SLF. It leaves us with a long way to go to succeed but we’re excited to work on securing the rest of the funding.
“We’re keen to hear from people or organisations who can help us seize this unprecedented opportunity to create something truly special for our children and future generations.
“We’re hugely grateful for the wonderful donations to our crowdfunder, which have shown such amazing support, and for the positive engagement from Buccleuch.”
The project has gained the backing of leading charities, including Borders Forest Trust, John Muir Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Trees for Life and The Woodland Trust.
The SLF is funded by the Scottish government and delivered in partnership by the National Lottery Community Fund and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.
Colin Smyth, South Scotland MSP, said: “This is fantastic news and a real recognition of the vision and hard work of Kevin and everyone involved.
“It is a vote of confidence in the ambition shown in the plans to create the nature reserve.
“There is still a long way to go but I hope this substantial grant acts as a real catalyst to bring in more funding.
“Raising the extra funds needed will be challenging, given the grant was lower than applied for.
“But if governments on both sides of the border are serious about supporting the economic recovery and moving us out of the recession about to hit us, this is the type of project they should support.
“South of Scotland Enterprise has a role to play and I hope Buccleuch will show some flexibility in the asking price.
“Buccleuch has worked well with the community so far and now would not be the time for it to be on the wrong side when it comes to community ownership. The Duke could well afford to forgo some of the asking price to seal a deal.”
Joan McAlpine, South Scotland MSP, welcomed the announcement but is disappointed that the Initiative failed to receive the full amount it asked for.
She said: “£1m is a lot of money but they now face a huge challenge to find the rest so they can draw down this grant in the timescale allowed.
“Although the SLF is an independent body and the government has no input to the decision-making process, I have written to the Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for environment, climate change and land reform.
“I told her of my concerns and asked whether there was anything else the government could do to help.
“I’ve also written to South of Scotland Enterprise to ask for its support.
“This is a very valuable project which will bring an important ecological asset into public ownership, preserving it for generations to come. I’m determined to do what I can to make sure it succeeds.”