18 June 2007

Sale of Li, Knoydart

29 April 2007:
Hello John Muir Trust

I saw in the Annual Report that Li in Knoydart was sold to the tenant. I may have missed an explanation of this in previous publications - if so, sorry.

To me this sounds like an inadvisable course because it goes against the principle of holding land for conservation - and potentially sets a dangerous precedent.

The JMT holds land so that it can be preserved for the conservation purposes while being used and appreciated by people. Working with community bodies rather than individuals should probably be the way to consider land holding, as the JMT has done in helping fund community buy outs.

I am most concerned that this sets a precedent that could lead to a fragmentation of our holdings making it much harder to achieve our goals.

PS I think that your memorial clearance policy for Ben Nevis is definitely a good idea - there seem to be more memorials popping up here in the Lake District so I am writing to the National Park to recommend their removal.

Reply 16 May 2007:
Dear Chris

Your e-mail regarding the sale of land at Li on Knoydart has been passed to me for my attention.

The sale of Li (approx 7acres of land which incorporates the house and garden grounds) was to the tenants of the house. They had taken on the tenancy of the house, which was completely derelict, over 30 years ago and were the tenants when the JMT took over ownership in 1887.

The tenants had expressed a desire to purchase the property mainly to give them security into the future but also due to the fact that they wished to upgrade the property to a reasonable living standard and with the lease they had they would not be eligible for compensation for any permanent improvements to the property nor could they raise the necessary capital to undertake the works as they did not own the property they wished to raise finance against.

There are many positive examples of how home ownership is being promoted in the context of rural (and urban) Scotland today e.g the Crofters’ Right to buy (which is a common occurrence on JMT crofted estates), the rights of agricultural tenants, the community right to buy under the Land Reform Act as well as other policies on public housing. Most public sector tenants have both the right to buy and the right to compensation for permanent improvements. Furthermore, the housing policy of the Knoydart Foundation (KF), of which the JMT is a member, actively encourages freehold ownership. At least six other Knoydart tenants who had similar leases to that at Li have now bought their properties.

Given the all above the JMT Trustees agreed to sell with various conservation burdens attached to the sale, including a right of pre-emption. The sale was also agreed by the National Heritage Memorial Fund who gave a grant towards the purchase of Li & Coire Dhorrcail.

The JMT see this as an exceptional case and infact was the only tenant of this type we had, other than crofting tenants who have a statutory right to buy their crofts, and therefore do not see it as setting a precedent for the future.

I hope this answers your query regarding the land at Li and please feel free to get back to me if you wish any further clarification.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Campbell
JMT Head of Land Management

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