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Harper Macleod advises on community buyout of historic crofting estate

Leading law firm Harper Macleod has advised a community in Sutherland on the purchase of a historic crofting estate in West Helmsdale.

Garbh Allt Community Initiative Estate bought out the Sutherland Estates' crofting townships of Portgower, Gartymore, West Helmsdale and Marrel – some 3000 acres, in May of this year, backed by the Scottish government-funded Scottish Land Fund and an SSE community fund. The land includes 20 sites of historical interest.

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Calum MacLeod (pictured), a Partner in the Rural team at Harper Macleod, said: "Our involvement in this great project goes back over two-and-a-half years when we were first approached by a local community body who were tentatively looking at the idea.

"The project effectively empowers this Sutherland community and enables it to properly shape a sustainable future for the area. This purchase is a culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication to members of this community, and our extended congratulations goes to them.

"As a firm we have particular experience of Community Buy-outs and have been involved in some of Scotland's most exciting community purchases of land, including advising on the Community Right to Buy and the Land Reform Act."

Harper Macleod's Rural Team advised the initial body who took forward the feasibility stage and then once the community had decided they wished to proceed we advised the newly incorporated body, including advising on the purchase of the estate, the crofting, and the difficult mapping and registration of a crofting estate. It also advised on the funding aspects with the Scottish Land Fund, and took the group through completion at the beginning of June.

Plans being considered for the land, in an area which has long suffered from low employment and depopulation, include building new homes. Garbh Allt is hoping to use the land to give local people more opportunities within a thriving, forward-looking community.

A spokesperson for the community group said: "The Garbh Allt Directors would like to thank Harper Macleod for the work that was carried for our Initiative. Calum MacLeod and his colleagues were able to reassure us and answer our many questions. They were always professional, speedy to respond and sensitive to the intricacies of our particular situation. The firm's previous experience of working with community land owners makes a big difference, particularly as we are complete novices. "

Announcing the successful purchase earlier this year, Anne Fraser, chair of The Garbh Allt Community Initiative, said: “We are absolutely delighted really and very excited about what that means for the future of the community. I am looking forward to standing on it. If my grandparents and my great grandparents could see that we bought up the land, I can imagine how proud they would be of how their offspring have got it back and bought it back for the community.”