Woodland crofts encouraged by new partnership

16 November 2012

A new crofting initiative is being pioneered by three organisations to encourage the creation of woodland crofts. The Scottish Crofting Federation, the Community Woodlands Association and the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust are working together to help communities through the process and have formed the Woodland Crofts Partnership. The ability to create woodland crofts was brought about by the Crofting Reform Etc.  Act 2007 (as amended by the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010), which allowed crofts to be put to other purposeful uses as well as giving the ability to create new crofts. 

A woodland croft is a registered croft with sufficient tree cover overall to be considered a woodland under UK forestry policy. Many are aware of the practices of traditional crofting but the cultivation and maintenance of forestry is a very different approach to crofting, albeit using the same philosophy of small scale, sustainable and environmentally sound  management of land. The Forestry Commission has published management guidance on woodland crofts, distinguishing this kind of forestry from larger scale operations. Furthermore, the Forestry commission state that a well managed woodland croft should have up to 20% open space to encourage flora and fauna, create diversity and protect historic features.

Other issues raised are that the rights to existing trees on crofts will in most occasions rest with the landlord, and therefore a mechanism would need to be put in place to enable tenants to benefit with agreement with the landlord. However, crofters do have the right to trees planted and cultivated by themselves. There may also be opportunities, as with common grazings, to create common woodland to be used and managed collectively.

A website – www.woodlandcrofts.org – is currently under development and will contain information and guidance to those interested in the scheme. A series of information events are being held in Gairloch on 22 November and Dornoch on 12 December, run and funded by Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) through their  Woodlands Crofts Knowledge Share Programme. Booking details for these can be found via the HIE website.


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