At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Evanton Wood Community Company the people of Evanton have recommitted themselves to finding ways to purchase the Evanton woods for the continued benefit of the community. This followed an inspirational talk by Suzann Barr of Abriachan Community Woodland on their ten years of developing their woodland..
Evanton wood is to be sold by Novar Estate and the company was created twenty two months ago in order to buy and manage the woods. The company directors were successful in securing an Investing in Ideas grant of ten thousand pounds from the Big Lottery Fund. This enabled the company to engage a professional consultant to carry out a feasibility study and business plan, and a forestry consultant to draw up a woodland management plan and budget. These reports indicated the viability of the community managing and developing the woods for community benefit.
The Board registered an interest under the community right to buy provisions of the Land Reform Act. In support of this a door-to-door survey was conducted which demonstrated overwhelming support for the principle of community ownership. The registration was the 100th of its type and attracted significant publicity at the time.
The application to the Big Lottery was submitted at the same time with every hope of success. Unfortunately, due in part to the pressure on funds, the bid was unsuccessful and the Board of Directors then took the view that it would not be feasible to raise the asking price for the woods. Anxious about the costs of running a limited company the Board then proposed to the ninety strong members that the company be wound up and, by postal vote, this motion was duly carried.
It meanwhile struck some members that such a decision was premature while other avenues remained to be explored. Local activists galvanised opinion, organised a public debate in the Novar Arms Hotel and gained sufficient member support to put a motion that the company apply for funding to look into other ways of purchasing Evanton wood. Following the Annual General Meeting at which chairman Russell Morrison gave a full account of the good work done to date and thanked all concerned including Ronald Munro-Ferguson of Novar Estate, this motion was put to the members present and carried by a significant majority.
The incoming Board* thanked the outgoing directors for their hard work and commitment and undertook to start the task of finding new sources of funding. An immediate start was made in collecting membership dues (forms available at Evanton Post Office). The new directors have stated their intention of involving young people in the initiative and activating the junior membership of the company. As Karl Seale, a seventeen year old from Evanton, stated: "Owning the woods would bring the community together."