Refencing gets underway

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.

LCDC BOARD MEETING – MINUTES

Date: January 24, 2022, 2pm

Location: Cafe Ceardach

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.

Kirkland Woodland: Options

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.

Option 1

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.

Option 2

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)

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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)

Pros:

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.

Compromise?

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.

LCDC BOARD MEETING 15/11/2021 – MINUTES

Location: Cafe Ceardach

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.

Minutes of LCDC Board Meeting – October 12, 2021

Sorry for the delay in publishing.

Date: October 12, 2021, 6pm

Location: Cafe Ceardach

Present:

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.

LCDC Open Meeting: Focus On Kirkton Woodland

When: 7pm, November 18, 2021

Where: Cafe Ceardach

The next LCDC Open Meeting will focus on plans for Kirkton Woodland, and all Members are encouraged to come along and join in the discussion. If you can’t make it on the night, please send us your thoughts via lcdc@lochcarroncommunity.org.

Replanting must be done and we already have a species layout plan, but we need to discuss this to make sure we have the support of our Members.

There have been various proposals for the woodland including a Memorial Garden, a Growing Area/Allotments/Polytunnels and an Events Space. The Board believe that any future decisions must have the support of the Members and the wider community, so it is important to find out what everyone wants.

The Board will also provide an update on finances, including Kirkton Trading.

Members will also be welcome to ask any questions about LCDC at the end of the meeting.

Halloween event at the tree house 2021

As part of the “Think Health Think Nature” Green Health initiative LCDC ran a Halloween Event at the Treehouse.  What a scary turnout we had, with over 30 people in attendance.  We offered a range of activities from a Sweetie Hunt and some crafting.  Many thanks to our “SeaHag” Judge – Sue Mitchell who had a tough time judging the best costumes.  The children (and some adults) enjoyed some spooky stories from “The Witchdoctor” – Lynda Beveridge as well as some crafting activities.  Special thanks to all those that took part and especially to Babs McCritchie and Annie for their help setting up on the day. 

Sheila Cudby

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sheila Cudby on 23rd October, 2021. Sheila was the wife of the late Malcolm Cudby and leaves behind her son Christopher Cudby. She was a long-standing member of LCDC and also served on the Board of Kirkton Trading, and she will be greatly missed by our community.

There will be a small graveside service at 12 noon on Friday 5th November, followed by a gathering at Cafe Ceardach. No flowers, please. The family respectfully ask that if you want to make a donation, please give it to the Howard Doris Centre.

LCDC BOARD MEETING MINUTES

Date: September 14, 2021, 6pm

Location: Cafe Ceardach

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).

Apologies: None

Declaration of interest: None

1 Minutes of previous meeting: Approved.

2 Matters arising: As agreed at the previous Board Meeting, a meeting was held on August 11 to discuss Cafe Ceardach operations and clarify the management structure. As a result, it was confirmed that the Cafe manager should report to the Cafe Board, which in turn reports to the LCDC Board, while the LDO focuses on core responsibilities. Regular monthly reports should be made to the LCDC Board. Bart Macfleat (BM) as chair of the Cafe Board explained recent issues with staffing and hours, since resolved, and reported improved revenues. He also suggested that all members, directors and employees of LCDC should be treated as regular customers. He also said that recruitment has recently improved with hiring of a new member of staff. BM also presented a menu of charges for hiring the Cafe, and explained that the Cafe had temporarily suspended the Deli and the emphasis on local produce to avoid revenue losses. PB hoped this would be reinstated as soon as practical. BM reported that a ‘profitability’ spreadsheet is nearing completion, to help menu planning and pricing. BM also hoped that the Cafe would be able to host more events in the winter, to fulfil its aim to be a multi-purpose venue. All agreed that the Cafe should focus for now on generating revenues. HM also followed up by meeting staff the following day to assure them that the Board supported their efforts, to counter a suggestion that the Board had made negative comments about them.

The LCDC Board agreed to reduce the LDO’s working hours from November onwards, due to a reduction in available funding. If further funding can be secured, this will be reviewed.

3 Resignations: Peter Mackenzie has resigned from both LCDC and Kirkton Trading Boards and Chris MacDonald has resigned from the Kirkton Trading Board. The board would like to thank them both for their input over the years.

3 Communications:

Minutes to be published on the website, and dates of board meetings to be published in advance. An Carrannach articles to be published on website. Mailing list needs cleaned up to reach out to members, and there are offers of help. VS suggested that to win the trust of members we need to have more regular open meetings, with proper agendas and themes. All agreed. PB proposed the LCDC website should have a new domain name. Lochcarroncommunity.org and Lochcarron.org are two of the options. He also proposed one email address for LCDC official business and another for official LDO business.

PB offered to write another article for An Carranach, acknowledging the lively debate at the AGM, and the fact that although members have not stepped forward as directors, several people have offered to help in specific areas such as planning for the woodland. Theme: Time for change.

ACTIONS: PB to investigate domain names, publish minutes and write article. Help to be organised for mailing list.

3 Discussion in advance of Open Meeting – September 30

VS suggested a facilitator would be helpful but PB thought the current Board had to face up to members. The minutes of the last AGM appear to be missing but a search is underway. VS said it was important to “get the truth out there” to counter rumours and explain how LCDC operates. Change is needed, said HM. PB suggested announcing the plans for a new domain name and email address, so it’s easier to contact LCDC and the Board, as well as reach out to members. KM has proposed setting up sub-groups for housing and the woodland, focusing on projects such as the growing area. All agreed this was a good idea which should be mentioned at the open meeting, with the woodland the priority and housing becoming more important over time. PB proposed that the groups have a “team leader” who reports to the LCDC Board, and also that the LDO’s role should be to support the groups with any resources they need. HM said we should talk about progress with projects and the Cafe, and PB suggested a theme along the lines of asking members to think about “what success will look like 10/50 years from now.” VS suggested refreshing the mission statement, which could also be a theme for the meeting, to answer the question, “What is LCDC for?” ACTION: Board to draw up agenda.

VS left the meeting at this point.

4 LDO’s Report

KM reported that the housing plans had been resubmitted and approval is expected soon. The drainage solution will meet the long-term needs of the development. KM said that it would be a good idea for LCDC to aim for a ‘net zero’ policy, which would help future applications for funding. Woodland plans to be confirmed soon. If there is significant regeneration, this would reduce the need to replant the full 40 hectares, possibly reducing total cost from £106,000 to about £75,000. Sixty thousand trees planned, mostly spruce and Douglas firs, as well as broadleaves. Total cost to include fertiliser, fencing and drains. Government grant will be £550 per hectare. The £21,000 legacy could also be used, since it is ring-fenced for the woodland. Volunteers could help with replanting, and the community could be asked to buy trees. An extension to October 2022 may be needed for replanting (since further extended to June 2023). Woodland activities are going ahead, including the walking group, and members have asked for this to last into the winter. KM explained that the eligibility criteria for some fund applications meant that we couldn’t apply for some funds because our turnover is over £200,000, but other options are being investigated. KM also said that some funds required a minimum of four directors. All agreed that we need more directors. KM said we need to have a 3-5-year business plan. Asked about priorities, KM pointed to replanting, the allotments/growing area, an events space and an equipment storage shed.

KM was asked about recent applications for funds and mentioned one for a men’s shed, a ‘community growing business’ project which includes matched funding of £50,000, to be met by ‘in kind’ contribution, and several small amounts for forestry.

PB confirmed that the Board should have more regular meetings with the LDO, to monitor current and future fund applications, and review past applications, following enquiries from members. ACTIONS: PB to draw up format for LDO reports and meetings to be scheduled. KM thereafter to submit weekly reports.

KM left the meeting at this point.

5 Treasurer’s Report

HR confirmed that finances continue to be fragile but there are signs of improvement in Cafe revenues. Kirkton Trading and Cafe accounts now submitted to companies house.

6 Any other business

It has been suggested by several members that the wood deliveries should be put out to tender. All agreed to review the long-term future of Kirkton Trading. ACTION: Board to review at next meeting.

7 Time, date and location of next meeting

To be confirmed

New LCDC email

To contact the Board of Directors, please use our new email:

lcdc@lochcarroncommunity.org

If you have any ideas or suggestions, or want to ask us any questions, we will do our best to get back to you as soon as we can.