A COMMUNITY buy-out of Langholm Moor by groups in Eskdale and Liddesdale will be the first and biggest of its kind in southern Scotland.
If it is successful, the buy-out will bring thousands of acres of land under community ownership for the first time. The land has never previously been sold.
The Langholm Initiative and the Newcastleton and District Community Trust are delighted that Buccleuch is giving them until next March to turn their expression of interest into a sale.
In May Buccleuch announced it would sell 25,000 acres stretching from Auchenrivock to Hartsgarth and both communities quickly took the decision to express an interest in buying it, leading to Buccleuch delaying its sale on the open market.
In a statement issued to the E&L Advertiser, the Langholm Initiative working group said: “We’re delighted by Buccleuch’s decision to postpone taking the Langholm Moor consultation area to the open market until March 2020.
“We’re equally delighted that there is a clear desire in the area for the land to be brought under community ownership.
“This was demonstrated by 833 people signing our petition in only 14 days.
“The group would like to thank everyone in the community for their support so far. We were helped by a number of volunteers to gather signatures, some as young as 15.
“We would also like to thank organisations, including Langholm Common Riding, MTAF and OutPost Arts for their support.
“We had letters of support from councillors Ronnie Tait and Archie Dryburgh and from Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk and Canonbie community councils.
“Written support has been received from MSPs Joan McAlpine, Colin Smyth, Michelle Ballantyne and Oliver Mundell.
We would like to thank Southern Uplands Partnership, RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Borders Forest Trust and SURF.
“We received emails and letters of support from individuals and we are very thankful for these as well.
“All of this supporting information was presented to Buccleuch, along with a request to formally enter into negotiation.
“It’s very uplifting to see the community unite to this cause and we look forward to progressing with this project.
“We’re at the early stages in a long process but we eagerly look forward to the challenges.
“We hope to build on the positive start to working with Buccleuch and reach a suitable agreement by the deadline.”
The group will continue to update its Facebook page Langholm Moor Community Buy Out Group and the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser of any developments and announcements in the coming months.
The group comprises Margaret Pool, Kevin Cumming, Alison Hutton and Niall Weatherstone.
The Newcastleton trust said: “The momentous decision by Buccleuch has created one of the biggest opportunities and challenges for Newcastleton and those living in the Liddesdale valley.
“We passionately believe in our heritage and landscape and we’ll use this extra time to investigate every avenue open to us to try to ensure it can stay in local ownership.
“We’ll work to secure all or part of the land and we will achieve this by working with our neighbours and other communities.
“People see this as a huge opportunity to secure their own Holm Hill for the benefit of future generations.
“This is very much Newcastleton’s side of the Langholm Moor, a place which villagers see, live in and work on every day Quite simply, it is part of our make-up.”
Barbara Elborn, secretary, added: “The south has lagged well behind other parts of Scotland in acquiring land for its communities. This is now our time.
“Newcastleton is a small, rural community; we number just 762 people. Including our neighbours in Upper Liddesdale, this swells to 920.
“While this may not be a situation we had ever envisaged, it does create one of the most exciting opportunities in living memory.
“We thank all those who have supported us so far. We will undoubtedly need your continued help over the coming months.”
Andrew Thin, who chairs the Scottish Land Commission, welcomed the news.
He said: “Buccleuch has committed to reduce its overall footprint and it is good to see it putting communities at the heart of this process.
“By using the commission’s first land rights and responsibilities protocol, which sets out practical advice on how landowners and the community can work together to make better and fairer decisions about land use, Buccleuch is now in talks with two communities to consider the opportunities available.”
“This is a great example of how landowners can work effectively with communities to make the most of the land for those living there.
“It’s good to see the possibility of negotiated transfer open up and we encourage both Buccleuch and the communities to make the most of this opportunity.”