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A popular tourism and education venue in Mid Argyll is seeking community support in its bid for ownership of all its land and buildings.
The Argyll Beaver Centre near Bellanoch is run by the Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation (HAWO) on grounds leased from Forestry and Land Scotland.
It plays an important role in protecting the beavers that were part of the UK’s first mammal reintroduction in 2009.
In order to secure the centre’s future the HAWO charity has decided to apply to the Scottish Government’s Community Land Fund for an asset transfer that would see the HAWO take ownership of Beaver Centre’s land and buildings.
The Scottish Land Fund supports rural and urban communities to become more resilient and sustainable through the ownership and management of land and assets.
Funded by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership by The National Lottery Community Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, it offers grants of up to £1 million to help communities take ownership of land and buildings as well as practical support.
An HAWO spokesperson explained: ‘Ownership will secure the building in perpetuity, reassure potential funders of our long-term sustainability, enable us to enhance the buildings in the future and buffer us from any future changes in policy.
‘Forestry and Land Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are both supporting this move and providing assistance.’
The work of the wildlife centre aims to promote the conservation and enjoyment of local wildlife and its habitats through public engagement at the Bellanoch visitor centre, guided walks, events, talks and education sessions with schools and community groups.
The charity has now begun consulting its neighbouring communities about the ownership question as part of the application’s first stage.
Letters of support have been sent to HAWO and an online poll with more than 550 responses currently has 90 per cent of respondents saying they are in favour of the ownership.
A spokesperson for the Heart of Argyll Tourism Association confirmed that the association would be sending a letter of support and added: ‘You’re doing an amazing job for the community, education and visitors alike.’
Mid Argyll resident Jane Gibson posted on the HAWO Facebook page saying: ‘What an excellent idea.
‘You are doing so much to enable both visitors and residents to understand the natural world in Knapdale that it would make real sense to provide you with the security of knowing that the building which you have developed can continue to be used for its current purpose.’
The Beaver Centre’s work is currently funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery Trust, public donations, guided walks and event charges, membership fees and shop sales.