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Four more applications for communities to buy or lease parts of the National Forest Estate have been approved under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS).

CATS was launched in January 2017 to implement the new rights for communities under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 to purchase, lease or use National Forest Estate land if it provides benefits to the local community.

The first transfer was for Fairy Pools Car Park in Skye and the sale to Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA), approved at the end of last year has recently completed, allowing MCHA to work on construction of the new, extended, car park

Rebecca Carr, Development Manager for Forest Enterprise Scotland, said: “Since CATS was launched we have engaged with over 50 communities across Scotland regarding purchase or lease of sites on the National Forest Estate, and are pleased to report that we have received a further six Asset Transfer Requests, four of which we have now been approved.

“We also have a pipeline of over 40 requests in development, including community interest in over half the sites recently notified to communities under the New Woodland Investment Programme.”

The applications approved are:

Carron Valley. The Valley Renewables Group submitted an asset transfer request to purchase 21.3 hectares of land at the entrance to the Carron Valley Forest. It is intended that the land will provide a focus for community activities, such as woodland management, timber harvesting including support for home heating to help reduce local fuel poverty, and for community events with woodland walks and adventure trails.

Leadburn. Friends of Leadburn Community Woodland (FLCW) submitted a request to purchase 9.4 hectares of land at Leadburn, next to Leadburn Community Woodland. FLCW proposed to increase the variety of walks available from the community woodland and to open up views to the south by removing many existing conifers. The cleared area was to intended to be restored as a raised bog.

David Sales, chairman of Friends of Leadburn Community Woodland, commented: "Friends of Leadburn Community Woodland bought land from the Forest Enterprise Scotland in 2007. Our new wood has become a popular place to walk and has wildlife interest. We are delighted that our request to extend the site has been accepted."

Eshiels Wood. Peebles Community Trust submitted an asset transfer request to purchase 6.9 hectares at Eshiels Wood, Peebles. The purpose of the request was to manage the woodland to improve biodiversity, sustainable productive management through community ownership and partnership, resurrect coppice management skills and provide a space for further skills training and nature learning.

Peebles Community Trust chairman, Lawrie Hayworth, said: “The Trust is delighted to secure the long-term future management and access to the woodland for the local community.  The Trust wishes to extend its gratitude to the dedicated group of enthusiasts who have developed this project and to Forest Enterprise Scotland who has cooperated so readily. Our objective is to deliver sustainable wood production while protecting and enhancing wildlife of international importance. The woodland is home to the rare currant shoot-borer moth (Lampronia capitella) which occurs nowhere else in Scotland.”

Dronley Wood. Dronley Community Woodland submitted an asset transfer request to purchase 50 hectares at Dronley Wood. The purpose of the request was to maintain and enhance the rich and diverse environment in the wood, develop its educational, recreational and timber resource, increase community capacity, skills and confidence, exploit innovative opportunities and generate a range of other long-term benefits and values to society.

Dronley Community Woodland’s Chair, Mrs Shiona Baird said: “The Board of Trustees of Dronley Community Woodland is delighted that Forest Enterprise Scotland has agreed to sell the wood to the community of Auchterhouse under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme.  Dronley Wood is well used by many people within and beyond Auchterhouse. We now have an amazing opportunity to manage and enhance the wood providing health, education and wellbeing opportunities for many more to benefit from this much loved wood.”