On the 30th of September 2015, the titles of Lochmill reservoir and the grazing land adjacent to it were handed over to NCT by Scottish Water. This marks the completion of a eight year community campaign to regain ownership after Fife Council took over the reservoir in the early 1970s.
NCT is now the full owner of the loch and the adjoining grazing land and as such has a range of responsibilities. On the loch we require to take weekly readings of water levels and must ensure that the reservoir is properly maintained. We have agreed with an NCT member to cut the grass embankment and the lease for the 2016 fishing season has been agreed with Newburgh Angling Club.
The grazing land has been let to a neighbouring farmer.
Thanks to the efforts of Fraser Hart and his team an informal path on the west side of the Loch has been extended to the southern most point. There have been one or two requests to complete the footpath right round the Loch. This would involve the construction of a bridge over the burn and an access agreement with the Forestry Commission. Is there any support for this proposal?
The change in ownership has raised a number of questions:
How much did it cost? The fifty acre site was valued at £47,000 by the District Valuer, and under the terms of Community Right to Buy legislation, that was the sum paid for it. On top of that there are legal costs.
Where did NCT get the money to buy it? The Trust's ownership bid received a major boost with the Scottish Land Fund offering to meet 90% of the purchase price. The Land Fund must have recognised the very strong local support for the project. The Newburgh Charity shop put £2,000 towards the purchase and an anonymous donor has offered to fund any shortfall in the project.
Who should be thanked for their contribution to the successful bid? A great deal of the credit for the successful bid has to go to Fife Voluntary Action, whose officers Maureen Burgess and Sharron Hutchison have helped prepare the business case for the project. They have helped guide the project from the start, filling in all the necessary forms and generally keeping us on the right road. Our three local councillors, Heer, Lothian and McDiarmid, and Fiona Mitchell, locality manager with Fife Council, all supported the bid. We also received helpful advice from Munro Gauld, from Highlands and Islands Enterprise. He had been appointed by the Land Fund to help us through the project. Dave Shepherd from Scottish Natural Heritage provided helpful advice and support on environmental concerns as did Robin Lofthouse, from Forest Enterprise – they are NCT’s neighbours on the east side of the loch.
How does NCT plan to ensure it is compliant with all the legislation surrounding the loch? We are required to appoint a reservoir inspector, who will carry out regular visual inspections as well as an annual inspection. A more thorough inspection has to take place every ten years. The next one is due in 2025. We have licensed the reservoir with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency as we are required to do. We are required to monitor the water level on a weekly basis and that has been arranged. We will have a Health and Safety record.
Does the purchase have any burdens? NCT is required to supply water to one neighbouring farmer but only to the extent of the boundaries of the property.
Is it insured? Yes, with NFU Mutual who also insure the three piers for the Trust.
What plans does NCT have for the reservoir? In preparing the bid for the reservoir, a community consultation was carried out in 2014 to determine how local people would like to see Lochmill developed. The overwhelming view was that it should be left almost entirely as it is now, as a peaceful, rural retreat. Some safety signs will require to be erected, as will an interpretation panel. Some repair work on fences will also be carried out. An informal path will be made to the far end of the loch.
What restrictions are there at Lochmill? Because it has two Sites of Special Scientific Interest - one in the water itself and the other as part of the grazing ground - some activities will not be allowed. These include motor boats on the loch and motor bikes on the adjoining land. Scotland Natural Heritage have also recommended that no boats other than the Angling Club's four boats are used on the loch because of the danger of transmitting Himalayan Balsam. This might compromise the SSSI in the loch.
Who can use the loch? It belongs to the community, but NCT have an informal group consisting of Andrew Clegg, Peter Williamson and Jim Shepherd, who will be the main contacts for any enquiry.
What about the fishing? The fishing has been let to Newburgh Angling Club for at least the past fifty years and there are no plans to change this agreement. Angling Club non-members can buy a day permit. There is no free fishing allowed.
And the grazing let? This is a seasonal let to a neighbour, and is restricted to cattle grazing.
What are the financial implications of owning the loch? The income from the Angling Club and the grazing lease should pay for the annual inspection fees, the insurance, minor repairs and make a small contribution to the ten year inspection.