Lochcarron Community Development Company is a community run organisation. Managing local woodlands, creating affordable housing, running Café Ceàrdach, a tree house, cultural, environmental and heritage projects, training and employment, for local sustainability.
We’re sorry to have to tell you that we’ve had to close the doors at Cafe Ceardach, from November 24th onwards until further notice.
This will be very disappointing to a lot of our members as well as local residents and visitors, but the Board of LCDC and the Board of Cafe Ceardach have decided we have no other option, faced with the continuing financial losses and the other challenges we face in coming months, including the need for major infrastructural changes.
The Board came to this very difficult decision this week after receiving extensive legal and financial advice, and considering the views of our members at the recent open meeting and since then. We have had a meeting with the cafe manager to explain our decision and are doing all we can to address the needs of the staff.
We will provide more details as soon as we have more information to share, but please be assured that we are doing all we can in the best interests of Cafe Ceardach and LCDC.
If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks for your attention, The LCDC Board of Directors
The Annual General Meeting of LCDC will be held on Thursday, September 8th at 7pm inCafe Ceardach. Please come along to find out what’s been happening in the last year and discuss our plans for the future. The annual accounts will be emailed to members in advance of the meeting, along with the agenda. New members are welcome – it costs only £5 for life!
Your woodland needs you – and to help restore its natural beauty, you can buy your own trees. Kirkton Woodland will soon be replanted with native species, including birch, alder, hazel and rowan. To fund the replanting, we will soon apply for government support, but this will only cover a small part of the total costs. And that’s where you can help…
For just £5 per tree, you will not only do some good for the planet (removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere) but also have the opportunity to commemorate the life of a loved one or simply buy someone a tree as a gift – the gift that keeps growing.
Or how about buying a grove – 12 trees for just £50?
All donors will be recognised by having their names displayed in the woodland. And to celebrate your purchase, you can also buy a special certificate for only £10 more.
Please email email@example.com to confirm how many trees you wish to purchase and we will get back to you with further details, including how to pay.
Present: Board members: Helen Murchison (HM), Hilary Rooke (HR) and Peter Barr (PB)
Declaration of interest: None
1 Minutes of previous meeting: Approved.
2 Matters arising: None
3 Open Meeting: There was a good response from members who voted 38-2 in favour of replanting native woodland. The board also promised to add a clause to the constitution to the effect that any major decision by LCDC affecting local business should be decided by a good majority of members.
4 LDO: Following a strategic review supported by HIE, it was decided to discontinue the LDO post, with effect March 31, 2022. ACTION: Board to issue statement and contact relevant organisations to confirm status.
5 Outstanding LDO business: PB said he would check the status of the application to SSE for funding (since rejected) and speak to the Coastal Communities Fund re any necessary amendments. PB to liaise with Scottish Forestry and the Community Woodlands Association re planning for the woodland. Ronnie MacDonald to start refencing in early April, reporting to Board. Board to liaise with the Communities Housing Trust and LCDC solicitor re affordable housing project. ACTION: PB and HM to meet Kristine Mackenzie for handover.
6 Kirkton Trading: The argument for carrying on is that there is local demand, increasing fuel poverty and a need for the community to reduce our carbon footprint. HR proposed raising prices and rationalising delivery system to try to cut costs. Customers already becoming aware of the need for an increase, which is necessary to avoid losing money. HR to investigate purchase of timber for next winter’s supply.
7 Maintenance: The car park potholes have been filled in and the LCDC office has been reclad. There is a need to review other issues with a view to identifying someone to help with maintenance, on a voluntary or part-time basis.
8 Pontoonproject: The application for funding from Crown Estate Scotland (CES) has moved onto Stage 2 and a business plan is now being prepared for the next round of submissions.
9 Communications: PB to submit article to April An Carrannach.
10 Treasurer’s Report: HR is about to prepare annual accounts and it was agreed to simplify these as much as possible and make sure they’re distributed in advance of the next AGM. HR to pay HIS invoice for fencing materials.
11 Climate Feis – March 26, 2022: The event was a big success, with 14 different stalls and about 150 people attending. Thanks to North Highlands Climate Hub for funding.
12 Office: Future of office: Either the office (now vacant) will be rented out to a local business or become, as several people have proposed, a Heritage Centre. Whatever is decided, members should have their say and if it is to be rented, we will advertise.
Ronnie Macdonald (pictured right) and his son Ian (left), assisted by their collie Ken, have started work in Kirkton Woodland, preparing the ground for the new fence. Once the fencing project is completed, replanting can start.
Present: Board members: Helen Murchison (HM), Hilary Rooke (HR) and Peter Barr (PB), Local Development Officer: Kristine Mackenzie (KM) Apologies: Vicky Stonebridge (VS)
Declaration of interest: None
1 Minutes of previous meeting: Approved.
2 Matters arising: None
3 Next Open Meeting: PB suggested holding the next Open Meeting on Thursday, February 24. Two basic options will be presented to members: Commercial (conifers) or native woodland. Members will be sent these options in writing and asked to submit any comments and vote. KM said conifers would help with canopy cover for areas where potential projects may be sited, e.g. pods or huts. The Board requested contact details for the Forestry Commission and the Community Woodlands Association to establish closer contact and do more research. ACTION: KM to provide contact details and all to start planning for Open Meeting.
4 Maintenance: Progress continues to be slow but John M will order materials to fix office roof and replace rotting timbers.
ACTIONS:HR to investigate options to fix electrics in office and Cafe. VS and KM to draft letter to Highland Council.
5 Community Growing Area: PB reported that ground had been cleared and a band of volunteers had come together to help. Article for An Carrannach has publicised the project. Board agreed that the Interest Group should be able to use some of the pallets and timber stacked up nearby to help build raised beds, as well as use tools in hut. Once fencing is costed, Board will investigate options to pay for materials. Request for compost to be considered. Site visit needed to inventory tools, etc. ACTION: PB to arrange site visit.
6 Housing: New planning application for the whole site submitted on January 7, incorporating new drainage plan. HR suggested there was no need to move from Planning In Principle (PIP) to full planning permission for four self-build housing plots to be sold by LCDC, unless otherwise advised that this may be advantageous. Meeting with Communities Housing Trust (CHT) scheduled for January 25 to get update and establish closer links between the Board and CHT as the project gets underway.
7 LDO Report: New bridge scheduled to be built in March by Highland Council at entrance to Kirkton Woodland near golf course, improving access via drove road. KM has met with Malcolm Turner of Woodland Trust and follow-up meeting scheduled for January 31 with the Board. Electric vehicle charge points: Details being finalised with SWARCO to finish installation. This will put the Smithy Hub ‘on the map’ and add another reason to visit, while generating small amount of income. KM suggested LCDC should investigate drawing up a ‘net zero’ policy since this is becoming increasingly important in funding applications. Applications for funding submitted to Coastal Communities Fund and SSE for help with fencing and woodland replanting.
ACTIONS: KM and PB to discuss net zero policy.
8 Moorings Association project PB reported that an application for funding had been submitted in the name of LCDC to Crown Estate Scotland (CES), following a request from the Lochcarron Moorings Association. This would be to fund a new pontoon and moorings in Loch Carron. HM noted that we need to establish the ownership of the pier before any project could start.
9 Communications As well as submitting an article to next month’s An Carrannach, PB will send out an Update to members in January, covering recent projects. ACTION: PB to produce Update.
10 Treasurer’s Report HR reported that we started to repay the bounce-bank loan in January, and that funds remain low.
11 Cafe Ceardach Staff appraisals were completed in December. Staff rota has been revised to meet winter schedule. Takeaways recently started and have been a success.
12 AOB PB reported that he had attended the recent Community Council meeting to support our bid for funding from the local community fund. He also plans to attend future meetings as often as possible. Dog Park: PB did a walkabout with Pam Bright to study available sites in the woodland. Ground conditions will obviously mean extra work but the project has attracted significant interest from dog owners in the area and is worth pursuing. The Lochcarron Art Group has asked about using the hut in the woodland for regular sessions of their drawing classes. There are 17 members at the moment, and PB suggested this was worth supporting. The group may also consider using the Cafe on Mondays, including lunch. ACTION: PB to liaise with Pam and check out classroom with Art Group.
13 Time, date and location of next meeting To be confirmed.
LCDC has an obligation to the Forestry Commission to replant the woodland by June, 2023, and in order to meet this deadline, we need a species layout plan, covering an area of about 25 hectares. The plan must be finalised as soon as possible and submitted for approval by the Highlands & Islands Forestry Conservancy. We will also need a woodland plan so that Scottish Forestry can see the rationale for the changes since the licence was granted. Once approved, we can then apply to the Scottish Government for £550 per hectare to assist with the costs of replanting.
What the woodland looks like now – after felling.
Before replanting starts, we need to fence the woodland to keep out the deer. Work on this will start in late March, and we’ve already raised enough funds to cover the £28,000-£30,000 costs. In addition, volunteers including local school students have also invested their time in the project to date, planting 1,200 broadleaf saplings and 400 hedgerow plants.
There are two basic options for replanting the woodland: commercial replanting (mainly sitka spruce, allowing for some areas of natural regeneration) OR native woodland (mainly birch). Both options have their pros and cons (described below) but for various reasons, it would be difficult to compromise between the two (see below). Both would help with carbon sequestration and creation of new habitats for wildlife, to differing extents.
No matter what option is chosen, the community should have its say in the final decision. This will require an Open Meeting and consultation with members.
Conifers – commercial. We already have a species layout plan, with sitka spruce the dominant species, plus Scots pine. This would be a future store of timber and wood fuel. In addition, a small percentage of broadleaves would be planted near the watercourses (riparian) to encourage natural regeneration and provide habitat corridors for wildlife.
Native woodland – ecology/amenity. Mainly birch would be planted, mixed with other broadleaves such as rowan, hazel, hawthorn, aspen and oak, as well as willow. In order to provide canopy shelter, a small percentage of spruce could be introduced in areas where future projects such as cabins or huts may be sited.
The existing native Scots pine will be kept for regeneration with possibly more planted, to create a more attractive environment and create new habitats for wildlife such as red squirrels, as well as provide future wood fuel for local consumption.
Pros and cons
1. High-density conifers (2,600-3,000 per hectare)
Future source of timber income when harvested.
Future wood fuel would generate long-term revenue and meet local demand.
Create employment/business – during start-up, ongoing and long-term when harvesting starts.
The woodland could be used for teaching – e.g. forestry skills.
As machinery would have to go in, the required infrastructure could be incorporated – e.g. path network. This could be combined with operational tracks to make woodland management easier.
High initial investment – infrastructure, drainage, ground preparation, access tracks.
Ongoing management costs – expert advice and monitoring.
Damage to the ecosystem caused by the use of heavy machinery.
Employment or business creation would show no return until harvesting starts, and thus would need funding until then.
Clear-fell system looks like a battlefield for several years after felling and would not be attractive to visitors or possible paying cabin/hutting customers.
2. Low-density broadleaves (1,600 per hectare)
Lower start-up costs: Less ground preparation and management, reduced infrastructure, lower up-front investment and less forestry expertise needed.
Would create a more pleasant environment for cabins or huts – more open and light. Would improve landscape.
Contribution to biodiversity and a long-term woodland ecosystem. This could further include projects like red squirrel re-introduction which would further enhance local visitor experience and tourism. Creation of new visitor attraction – walkers (paths could be created over time), accommodation (pods/cabins/huts), teaching aid and wood fuel for local consumption. Social benefits – outdoor learning, health and well-being, by providing welcoming and well-managed woodlands.
It is a core aim of the national biodiversity action plan to significantly increase the area of native woodland, creating opportunities for more people to see, enjoy and learn about wildlife.
Cons: The value of the timber crop would be significantly reduced.
What the woodland could look like ten years from now.
If we replanted a mixture of conifers and native woodland, the pros and cons may cancel out each other. Conifers are more valuable the greater the area used because of the economies of scale Half the area would generate significantly less than half the revenues, because of the initial infrastructure costs. In addition, we would need the same degree of expert input to manage the woodland, regardless of the size of the area used for commercial purposes. The attraction value of a native woodland would also be diminished by sitting alongside a commercial operation. It could also be argued that the simpler, the better.
This suggests that we need to make a simple choice between commercial and native woodland, although it may be beneficial to plant a small percentage of low density conifers to provide shelter for birds and mammals in winter, also adding economic value by providing timber in areas earmarked for future projects such as woodland huts, cabins or pods.
So now it’s up to members to express their views and make the final decision.
Did you know? Forestry and timber processing in Scotland is worth a total of about £771 million a year, while £183 million a year comes from forest tourism and recreation.
Present: Board members: Helen Murchison (HM), Hilary Rooke (HR) and Peter Barr (PB), Local Development Officer: Kristine Mackenzie (KM), Social Media Manager: Vicky Stonebridge (VS)
1 Minutes of previous meeting: Approved.
2 Matters arising: None
3 Open Meeting (November 18): PB proposed a general introduction about the importance of getting members involved in decision making, then focus on woodland followed by financial update and AOB. Discussions held with members in advance re community growing and dog exercise area – both emerging as popular options.
4 Maintenance: VS was thanked for her work on a maintenance manual, focusing on routine jobs, emergency procedures, annual and quarterly jobs, etc. This may not be complete yet but it’s very comprehensive. Urgent needs: Check electrics in LCDC office and Cafe and fix leak in office roof. Timbers on some buildings also need attention to prevent further damage. Check smoke alarms in Cafe. Flooding continues to be a problem and VS reported advice re possible drainage solution for Smithy Hub, including work to be done by Highland Council Roads Department on road side. Proposals to be shared with Willie D with a view to him discussing feasibility and quoting for ground works – he has previously drawn attention to the need for work on the road side before doing further work in Smithy Hub and car park. Less urgent: lines to be painted in car park. In future, we will need to recruit volunteers for maintenance work. ACTIONS: VS/KM to draft letter to Highland Council re drainage ditch, for signing by HM. VS/KM to contact Willie D re drainage works. PB to contact Ian Mackenzie re electrics. HR to contact Ian/Keith Pearce re roof and timbers.
5 Communications: Update to be sent to members after Open Meeting. This should be a regular feature, and printed version could be distributed locally. ACTION: PB to produce Update before Xmas.
6 LDO’s Hours: After being given time to agree on which days she would work, the LDO proposed Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus one extra day. Agreed.
7 LDO’s Report:
Fencing: Quotes now coming in and decision to be made soon re contractor and materials supplier. Total costs expected to be circa £29,000. Woodland: 420 trees now ready for replanting. Anniversary/heritage: 150th anniversary in 2022, details to be confirmed.
Unesco Trail: Post now inserted at the right of the access gate, using QR code to access www.wrb.scot website. Housing: Amended application now submitted. Befriending: £2,000 to be sought to continue this project. Electric car charge points: Completion delayed for technical reasons.
ACTION: KM to draw up maps for species layout plans and projects before Open Meeting.
KM and VS left the meeting at this point.
8 Cafe Ceardach: Discussions have been held with Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) with a view to assisting with training of staff, focusing on menu planning, pricing and profitability analysis. Opening hours and staff schedule to be reviewed. Xmas lunches being planned. Proposed that LCDC Board meet up with staff to discuss operations. ACTION: Board to arrange meeting with Cafe staff during December. Board to discuss training with HIE, with Cafe manager involved.
9 Treasurer’s Report: HR confirmed Cafe making small profit, and Kirkton Trading small loss.
Board members: Helen Murchison (HM), Hilary Rooke (HR) and Peter Barr (PB)
Local Development Officer: Kristine Mackenzie (KM).
Adam Turner (AT) and Jane Jellett (JJ)
Apologies: Vicky Stonebridge (Social Media Manager)
Declaration of interest: None
1 Minutes of previous meeting: Approved subject to amendment.
2 Matters arising: None
3 Business proposal: AT and JJ were asked for more information regarding a business proposal, since withdrawn. They then left the meeting.
4 Open Meeting:
PB reported that the meeting on September 30 had emphasised how important it is to be as open as possible about our finances. The discussion on communications also showed how much members valued attempts to reach out more to the wider community, including the new LCDC email addresses and greater use of the member database. Suggestions included sending a regular update to members and improvements to the website – as well as more open meetings. Several people have also come forward offering to help with communications, woodland planning, finances and environmental issues, and Interest Groups will be set up not just to help with these practical matters but also to gather feedback. Questions were raised about the costs of processing and delivering firewood, and the board of directors confirmed that they will take a close look at the finances of Kirkton Trading to assess its long-term future, in consultation with members.
ACTION: PB to write article for An Carrannach, summarising discussion.
5 LDO’s Report:
Housing: A lawyer’s letter has been sent to local residents addressing their objections concerning site access. Drainage redesigned, start date now March 2022.
Woodland: 400+ saplings are now available for replanting, in November and December.
Interest from several people re community growing and composting scheme.
Draft plan for replanting now complete. Fencing (to be done first) may require more than 4,000 metres. Estimates now being sought.
Storage shed: Costing required. This would help dry wood and store equipment, but depends on Kirkton Trading carrying on.
Electric car charge points: Meters now installed. Chargers due early November.
Funding applications lodged for community growing, purchase of saplings, outdoor learning, etc.
ACTION: KM to draw up woodland plan including possible sites for projects, overlaid on species layout plan.
KM left the meeting at this point. Bart Mcfleat (BM) joined the meeting to update the board on Cafe Ceardach.
6 Cafe Ceardach
BM reported small monthly profit and discussed need to analyse prices and profitability. Could Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) help with financial analysis and also training for staff? BM also suggested an open meeting with staff to discuss ideas and gather feedback. If growing area established, staff could also be involved.
ACTION: Board to approach HIE re training and help with financial analysis. Meeting with staff to be arranged before Xmas.
7 Treasurer’s Report
HR confirmed improvement in Cafe revenues. Kirkton Trading running at a loss of £1,666 over the last seven months (April-October).
ACTION: Board will review long-term future of Kirkton Trading after the winter, in consultation with members, assuming that it may return to profitability during that period by selling wood purchased last year.