Questions received through surveys Jan 2012

HYDRO

Is the hydro going to service the forest buildings or not? From the report it is not clear if it will produce enough energy to do that and have excess to go to the grid.

That is the intention. The amount left over will depend on how much electricity the forest buildings will use, which depends on what’s built, and the time of year (because when the flow is lower the hydro will take less out of the burn and the output will be lower). As we don’t yet know what will be built it is difficult to answer this question.

It’s not a good idea to seek volunteers, including children, to build a hydro scheme. Has this been risk assessed? I don’t understand why this needs to happen – please explain. Is it to try and keep the costs down because we can’t find funders? 

The building of the hydro scheme has not yet been risk assessed, but would be before it takes place. The reason for involving volunteers is two-fold. It could act as an educational and training project if managed in the right way. It could help us to reduce costs, which reduces the payback time for the project. Any loan funder will need to know we will be able to repay them within a given time frame.

Who will lead the volunteers? Have SNH & SEPA been fully consulted on a plan to use volunteers – please publish their feedback. 

We have not yet reached this stage of discussion; we need to decide if the hydro scheme is environmentally and financially feasible before moving onto these discussions. However, there is mention of the use of volunteers in the report which SNH and SEPA are aware of. When we receive formal feedback from SNH and SEPA we will publish it.

How many volunteers and what type of skill level will be required?

We are not yet at the stage of determining this. It may be only that we look for qualified people who are willing to help us with managing the construction of the scheme, but pay local companies or self-employed individuals to carry out the work. Or it may be that we ask the community for help in digging trenches, for example. Alternatively, we may work with a local college or University which has a group of students willing to help us with the project. We need to ensure safety is of primary concern and that we also have the right mixture of skills to effectively complete the build.

Anyone considered the effects of added light pollution?

As far as I am aware, no we haven’t. I will pass this on to the consultants for consideration and post a response here when I have one.

What does the design look like? What mitigating measures will be put in place?

The design and mitigating measures depend on the feedback from SNH and SEPA and we do not yet have this. When we do, I will update the website.

What are the figures?

The figures are contained within the report. I have no additional information but if you email me a specific question, I will forward it to the consultants and they will respond.

Have local experts been involved, such as the Bute Natural History Society?

The project has been discussed with various local experts and they have given feedback which is being taken into account.

The [archaeological] sites may be old, but are they significant?

This depends on your definition of significant. We are keen to protect them regardless of their significance because we consider them to be an asset.

MASTER PLAN

I’m not sure it’s a good idea to build in the SSSI. I can appreciate the desire to try and do something at the WWII bunker to exploit the view but shelters elsewhere in the SSSI may not be well received by SNH or the Forestry Commission. Has anyone consulted these organisations?

We are starting the process of doing this at the moment and preliminary feedback is positive. There is a long way to go in terms of gaining permissions from various organisations, but we don’t want to progress this too far until the BCLC members have agreed we should proceed.

All need detailed evaluation of how the designs fit in with patterns of use, for example, will they be suitable for winter use?

This is underway at the moment.

Is there a forest management plan in place yet?

The plan has been delayed somewhat because of personnel changes at BCLC and because of the time it can take government organisations to respond to our requests. However, we recently sent out the scoping document for the forest management plan to key stakeholders. This simply asks organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage for their input into the plan and they have to respond within 28 days. Once we have this input we can develop the plan and hopefully publish a draft within the next few months.

What will be included to ensure ongoing monitoring of the archaeology and environment, will monies and roles be there for support of this?

We hope to not only protect the archaeology and environment but to enhance them. However, we are still at an early stage of discussing our plans with the relevant agencies and local experts. When we know more we will let you know.

Where and when will funding be available?

We are expecting to generate some income for ourselves, through the sale of wood-based products. We hope to appoint a Forester and an assistant in April who will be responsible for managing this aspect of the forest in a way which interferes as little as possible with people’s enjoyment of the forest. They will also be responsible for small projects such as building picnic benches and viewpoints.

We are also exploring grant funding and loan funding options and working out the most effective ways to invest the Johnny Bute fund. I will let you know more as our plans progress. The Scottish Rural Development Programme funding has ended for now and we are waiting to hear if there will be additional monies made available through this fund. The Big Lottery Fund also has pots of funding available, but as with most grant funds it is highly competitive. They also need our plans to have progressed further than they have at present before they can consider an application.

In my view it is a bad idea to rely on volunteers for some of the activities mentioned above. Are you really expecting volunteers to help build mountain bike trails and eco-lodges? Have you considered the health and safety risks of this? When the Scottish Government aapproved the right to buy it was on the basis of creating jobs and proper traing places primarily, not appealing for volunteers. Has this focus changed? Significant voluntary input into building structures needs to be properly ‘risk assessed’. Has this been done? This all seems slightly ridiculous when the company has access to significant funds with the Johnny Bute money.

The Johnny Bute fund was for £100,000. This fund has been earmarked for projects which will create a return on the investment – for example the saw mill has been funded in this way because we anticipate making a profit. The forest will need ongoing funding for maintenance so it is important we ensure this will be available. The fund is likely to also be used for match funding, if and when we apply for grant funding for the projects. Essentially, we need to be careful about how this fund is spent otherwise it won’t go far.

The input of volunteers would need to be carefully managed and risk assessed. We are developing our procedures over time and risk assessing according to the activities taking place. we are following HSE guidance on how best to manage this process. We already have a pool of people who have volunteered – watch out for my blog on the compost toilet build last weekend – so it does seem that people are willing.

We are currently planning to appoint a Forester and as assistant. As and the project develops we are likely to need further employees, but we can not do this until there is a sustainable way of funding their posts. We need volunteers at the moment to move the project forward with the intention of creating permanent posts and not temporary ones.

Minute are not kept up to date on the website and there are no minutes for Bute Forest meetings. And there is no information on the financial position of either company. Is it a big secret?

No, not at all. The minutes of one BCLC meeting are approved at the next, and there has only been one meeting since the last minutes were published. I will discuss with the Directors the possibility of publishing the Bute Forest Ltd minutes on our website at the next board meeting. The minutes would usually contain financial information and our accounts are being audited at present. Once they have been completed they will be presented at the AGM and be available for download from the website.

Is this really what the whole community wants ?

The community is made up of 7000 people and so reaching a consensus would be very hard. The best we can do is try to take into consideration people’s feelings and thoughts and achieve a balanced approach. It will be for the BCLC members to decide to accept the plans. Anyone resident on the island can become a BCLC member.

Do we need a kayak jetty?

Our feedback indicates that some people would enjoy the use of a kayak jetty and it may attract additional visitors to the island.