Villagers at Newcastleton set to seal £850,000 deal to buy hill

It’s been an uphill struggle at times, but villagers at Newcastleton have now been given the opportunity of a lifetime after landing an £850,000 windfall set to transform their future.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 11:14 am

That handout from the Scottish Land Fund will enable Newcastleton Community Trust to buy 750 acres of land next to the village from Buccleuch Estates.

Among the proposals now on the agenda for the Tarras Water and Holm Hill are the creation of a mountain bike trail, multi-use golf clubhouse, car parking, a star-gazing viewing gallery, campsite and new walks.

That upturn in fortunes is particularly welcome coming so soon after flooding hit the 762-population village in February.

Control of the land around the village will help the trust develop plans for flood prevention works, it says.

Its other plans include improved public access, sympathetic development of forestry and continued farming.

Trust chairman Steve Hartley said: “Community ownership of this land, much of it still used as it was over 225 years ago, now gives us all a bigger and brighter sustainable future.

“This will continue to include farming, but the community also wants to develop new leisure and renewable sectors, spreading the benefits of community ownership to everyone who lives here.

“We would also like to thank the Scottish Land Fund, for believing in our vision and awarding the funds to secure this land and to Buccleuch for their constructive and proactive approach, as well as their patience in allowing the community time to prepare our bid, working with us to overcome the challenges presented and to go the extra mile when we asked them to.

“We cannot express what owning the Holm Hill means to us all. It is priceless.”

Trust secretary Barbara Elborn added: “Owning the land gives us choices as a community which we currently don’t have.

“A huge number of avenues arose as a result of the work we did to support the bid.

“Tourism and leisure are already here. The hills, the walking, the cycling, the mountain biking are already here. It’s just adding to what we have already got to make sure we become more sustainable.

“Having more of the same will just mean we are able to keep tourists here for longer and they will spend more money when they are here.

“We are pretty brutal about that. We need the money.

“Newcastleton should be a primary destination for the south of Scotland.”

The land fund, run by the National Lottery Community Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is bankrolled by the Scottish Government, and its land reform secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “As we plan our recovery from coronavirus, we have a chance to re-imagine the Scotland around us and begin to build a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy.

“Communities must be at the heart of this process, and the funding announced will support projects to achieve just this, driving long-lasting benefits and empowerment to local communities.”

Benny Higgins, executive chairmanof Buccleuch Estates, also welcomed the deal, saying: “We are delighted that the trust has been successful in securing funding, and this is a major milestone for them.

“Community aspirations are at the heart of Buccleuch’s values, and when we announced in May last year that we wanted to sell property on the Borders estate, Buccleuch was fully committed to engaging with local bodies to assess their appetite for purchasing the land.

“Newcastleton Community Trust has displayed a tenacity and willingness to co-operate that has made the discussion an enjoyable experience.

“The trust will be finalising their purchase with us very soon and we congratulate them on that achievement.”