Developing the potential of natural assets without spoiling their beauty was the inspiration for my visit to Knoydart. The most remote peninsula in the UK is not without its green challenges:
• Hydro Electric – Being far away from the main electric grid requires innovative solutions. Generating hydro-power from natural streams is possible and batteries can store excess electric power, but machines become old and expensive to replace.
• Forestry – Growing trees for fuel, furniture and building is ecological. However, harvesting 17000 acres of trees in rough mountainous terrain requires specialist machinery to bring wood to port and then there is the cost of shipping.
• A Close-knit Community – 110 residents rely on a single community shop, a pub, restaurant, bed and breakfast, a bunkhouse for hikers and a primary school (with only three children).! Ignoring your neighbours is not an option, as they rely on you as much as you depend on them.
• Tourism – A place of natural beauty with a variety of birdlife, vistas of the sea, fishing, abundance of deer and very few tourists. Tourism generates income but it requires income to generate tourism. They could really explore this income stream.
• Approach to Life – A uniquely calm and gentle pace of life is slow to change. Knoydart could easily be a health village, a Centre Parc alternative or a heaven for hikers and artists. This can bring sustainability and much needed investment.
• Knoydart Trust Ownership – The Trust owns all the land and allows residents to build their own homes. Very few residents can afford to build and there is a shortage of spaces to live. An interesting legal arrangement exists as residents can only sell their homes to the Trust (giving absolute control to the Trust) thereby preventing further development.
• Modern Day Life – Very few places can escape the march of progress – Amazon can deliver your parcels even if you live in Knoydart!
Despite the challenges, sharing ways develop natural assets with other organisations is always a good idea. Learning how others have achieved success with complicated governance, legal structures and applied good practice is the start of making the most of our natural treasures.
My twelve-hour journey to Knoydart was well worth the effort, and I plan to take more people with me next time.
Locality members should definitely take advantage of the learning opportunities available in the membership network, as people are doing some amazing work. Community businesses really are changing lives through innovative solutions.
My thanks to Plunkett Foundation and Locality who supported my journey.
Nasim Qureshi, CEO Inspired Neighbourhoods, Bradford.