[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Habost, South Lochs, as seen from Keose"][/caption]
When I arrived in this island in November 2004, I started off in South Lochs. At the time, there was a buzz of excitement in the air, with a vote on the 29th of that month on whether the community would bid to gain ownership of their land. The vote was in favour. The few hundred 'lochies' tried to set the wheels in motion to get the Pairc estate under their belt.
I am sad to report that this has so far proved unsuccessful. In my tenure of the Arnish Lighthouse blog, I have been very critical of local and indeed at times national (Scottish) politicians. I am not going to change that stance. I was pleased, in a way, to note that our MSP has finally woken up to the realisation that there was such a thing as a community buy-out bid in Pairc, and finally realised that there was an incredible amount of thwarting going on. Whilst I am very pleased that the Galson estate buy-out was successful, it was overlooked that theirs was NOT the oldest or the first buy-out in Lewis. Theirs was the first one to be successful.
The Pairc buy-out is mired in the deepest South Lochs bog for a couple of reasons. The main one, it would appear, is the way estate owner Barry Lomas is displaying his reluctance to part with his property. I can understand why - there are plans afoot to build a windfarm in South Lochs, which would generate a lot of £££. Mr Lomas is reported to be using the instrument of the interposed lease - leasing the land to another company (which he owns as well). Other reasons for the lack of success in Lochs is the difficulties in describing what the estate actually consists of. There is no definitive map. Instead, we have pinpoint accuracy in descriptions like: "stretching for 400 yards in a southwesterly direction from the Stornoway road". Furthermore, patches of land may be sublet, sub-sublet, and no trace of who is the main lessee. It is enough to make a stone weep.
Our MSP has finally remembered that the legislation which applies to community buy-outs does not just cater to the benign situation that the landowner willingly parts with his land. It also includes a clause for a hostile buy-out bid. I am still not holding my breath. I'll have to go through my files, if I can find the Pairc ones under that thick layer of dust and cobwebs, because I faintly remember something about a Land Court hearing that would take many moons to come to a ruling - back in July 2008.
The people in the Pairc Trust will hopefully have a more accurate and up to date status available, and hope that this will be forthcoming in local newsmedia in the very near future.
I have just conducted a search on postings on this blog using the search term Pairc. Found at least 3 similar postings to the one I have written above, made in 2008, 2007 and 2006. Just goes to show how stuck this issue is. Let's hope the Environment Minister at Holyrood, who is responsible for buy-outs, will move things forward before the year is out.