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Community-owned forest among rural grant projects

A GROUP of residents will be able to take control of their local woodland while others will purchase a filling station or post office as nine community projects are set to benefit from almost £1 million in grants to support rural communities.

Campaigners near Beauly will use their £221,000 award from the Scottish Land Fund to purchase part of the 700-acre Aigas Forest to the west of Inverness.

They will also lease the remaining area of commercial woodland, bringing the whole forest into community control.

They want to create a woodland criss-crossed by a path network in a project which will produce an income for the community.

Andrew Leaver, secretary of Aigas Community Forest, said resdients were delighted the Scottish Land Fund had recognised the value of the project.

"It's been a long, and at times dispiriting, five years to get to this stage," he said.

Mull and Iona Community Trust, in partnership with Ulva School Community Association, will receive £139,120 to purchase land at Ulva Ferry, on Mull. New affordable housing is identified as the priority.

Helen Mackay, convener of the schools association, said: "The whole community, with the school at its heart, has been suffering.

"Financial assistance from the Scottish Land Fund means our plan to build two new homes to offer to families can now be realised. Two new homes may not seem much to some, but will make a huge difference to this area's future."

Scottish Land Fund chairman John Watt said the projects reflected "innovative steps" taken by people to address problems or challenges in their own areas.

Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust's grant of £144,512 will purchase Bonar Bridge Post Office and sorting offices, flat and garden. This will maintain the vital local service in this remote rural area.

A sum of £50,000 is being given to South Islay Development to help this group purchase a local petrol station in Port Ellen, on Islay, Argyll.

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