A Welcome from the Chair
Welcome to the first edition of the South West Mull and Iona Development Newsletter, we hope that you will see it as a quick and easy way of keeping up with our various activities! Since the organisation became incorporated in March 2014 we have been pretty busy with most of our efforts going into the community buyout of Tiroran Forest which has had to take priority in our work since the offer is strictly time limited (more to follow…). We have ambitious but achievable plans but have slender resources to take our programme forward and we hope that, through this newsletter, you will be encouraged to get involved with some of the activities in which you may have a particular interest or skill,
As you will be aware we applied to the National Forest Land Scheme in June 2013 and subsequently won the Community Right to Buy for Tiroran Forest. Our first date for taking ownership was 15th April 2015, the second was 24th July 2015 and this has now passed. We are happy that we have our funding package agreed, £750,000 from Scottish Land Fund, a £200,000 loan from Social Investment Scotland and £80,401 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, however the process of buying the forest has been much more time consuming and troublesome than we had anticipated.
Current complications have involved the recent felling of Larch which carries the disease Phytopthora Ramorum by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS). We have taken on board concerns from members of the community relating to the large amounts of Spruce being removed along with the Larch. Any revaluation of the forest must be based on common assumptions and they have taken some time to reach. However, after a recent meeting with FCS we have agreed on a revaluation which will take into account: a revised stock map showing the new area felled; a new compartment database taking into account the revised crop and felled areas; the increased area which has a re-stocking commitment resulting from the recent felling; and any new areas of Phytophora Ramorum which SWMID will have to deal with after ownership.
The forest has now been re-valued at £880,000 (£20,000 less than the original figure), now we have the revaluation we are on the verge of completing the purchase. Through engagement with members of the Community Woodland Association, we are aware that we are not the only community organisation to have experienced the process of buying a forest to be slow. We have been encouraged by the enthusiasm and interest from people across the area in the Tiroran project and we will have positive news about ownership very soon. We hope to consult again shortly after to develop a long-term plan based on the views of the community.
Please note, we will be advertising two new members of staff soon – Forest Officer post and an Administrator post.
Over the last few months we have said goodbye to two of the SWMID directors, Martin Caldwell and Craig Rutherford. Martin did a huge amount of work for the forest project and the board wish him well with his other commitments. Craig, the youngest SWMID director, has many work commitments at the moment and as a result tendered his resignation, we wish him well with his business in the future.
We are pleased to co-opt two new directors onto the board. Ali Moore and Marie Fox both live at Tiroran and have been involved with the forest project for some time.
Ross of Mull and Iona Gala Fortnight – Jack Degnan
The Ross of Mull and Iona Gala, the inaugural one? Who knows? Has, from comments made to me by local folk in the shops, pubs at events, and in the streets, been a great success. A success that has caused me to wonder why, on earth, I didn’t get this up and running over twenty years ago, when I first was mooting the idea.
Whilst not achieving the aim of having something official happening on every day and on every evening somewhere in the Ross and/or Iona, I believe that there was enough going on during most days for families or individuals to enjoy. One such family day that was, in my opinion, an excellent example, was the ‘Practical Plants Day’ held at Creich on Thursday the 30th July. At this event there were excellent workshops and demonstrations, from crafts to cookery, for adults and youngsters alike. Emily Wilkins, Mull and Iona Ranger Service and her team Katrina Crosby and Alex James, are to be congratulated for the hard work they put in to organise this, as well as commending the input from the demonstrators, speakers, and, of course, the chefs.
The Pennyghael Art Exhibition and the Ross of Mull and Iona Gardens Trail were also very successful, well done to everyone involved.
We couldn’t have had a better start to the gala with the whole day of Friday 24th July. The keel Row had Box ‘o ‘ Bananas playing outside and keeping the crowds entertained. The Float Parade, whilst not having too many floats, was excellent. The emergency services who came along must be thanked for their commitment and community involvement, especially PC Chalmers. However, we cannot talk of the Float Parade without mention of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry constructed by Bob Allan et al. This was an excellent construction, highly skilled and crafted, that would have graced any parade, anywhere and went down a treat with the large crowd of spectators.
The evening of the first day concluded with the Gala Dance that was enjoyed by the good crowd who attended.
In summary, the organisers are happy with the way things went. We had decided to start off with an event that would be relatively small and manageable in order to see if we could make a success of it and allow it to grow in years to come, should this be the feeling of folk in the Ross of Mull and Iona. This, I think we achieved. However, an open meeting will be held on Wednesday 9th September at 7.30 in Creich Hall at which opinions and ideas for the future, will be sought.
Sound of Iona Harbours
We had the opportunity to meet with Mike Mackenzie (MSP) at Bunessan Show at the beginning of August. Mike is particularly interested in the redevelopment of the Sound of Iona Harbours and so we took him down to Fionnphort pier to see the current infrastructure for himself. Andy Dougall and Davie Kirkpatrick were at the pier and it was great for Mike to hear thoughts on the current set up of the piers from two very experienced seamen.
Morven attended a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism at the Scottish Parliament in June. It was useful to meet with representatives of the Crown Estate, the Sound of Iona Masterplan fits with their objectives and they are keen to be kept in the loop about our progress.
The harbour project started long before SWMID was formed and probably has to remain a medium to long term objective given the scale of resources required to build such structures. But SWMID has tried to keep up the pressure on the relevant agencies to secure progress. We have had it confirmed by the Scottish Government that their ferries plan still envisages improvements at Fionnphort post 2018 (not that long now!! ). After meeting with councillors at an Argyll and Bute council Business day in October 2014, it was proposed that the Sound of Iona Master Plan be included in the new Argyll and Bute Economic development Action Plan. The plan was approved this week and the harbours project is included as an action point to address the outcome “Realise greater economic development benefit from our ports and harbours and explore opportunities arising from Scottish Ferries Plan and safeguard Argyll and Bute Council’s interests.” Argyll and Bute Council have carried out a bathymetric survey recently with the intention of completing an options appraisal for potential pier infrastructure by 2016.
Ross of Mull and Iona Community Plan
The Ross of Mull and Iona Community Plan was published in 2011 and in the Autumn of this year we intend to update the plan. Lots of things have happened in the last four years, some action points have been addressed, some have changed, new opportunities have arisen, e.g. Tiroran Forest, and the SWMID board feel that we need to carry out some fresh consultations and update the plan to ensure that it is current and fully reflects the wishes of the community. We hope to begin consulting in the Autumn time.
Simultaneously Mull and Iona Community Trust will be consulting for a Mull and Iona Community Plan which covers the whole of the islands. They will be consulting with the areas who do not have a community plan (everywhere except South West Mull and Iona and Ulva Ferry) and we will feed our plan into the whole island version when we have finished the update.
Columba Centre, Fionnphort
Many people in the area are saddened to see the Columba Centre, in Fionnphort, closed and feel that it is a resource which could be used for community benefit. This issue has been brought to us at many stages from consultations for the community plan through to discussions about the Sound of Iona Masterplan. As a result of our conversations with Historic Scotland, they have invited us to put to them a business plan and proposal for the future use of the centre. The first step to this will be consultation with local people to find out what the community would like to see happen. The initial discussions will tie in with the community plan update consultations. Dates for these will be advertised in due course.
If you have any thoughts, questions, ideas or would like to get more involved with any of the projects mentioned then please get in touch with Morven, email@example.com 01681708000