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New owners take £3m future forest of a million trees off the market

© Andrew Cawleyforest

A Highland estate backed by a £3 million government grant for the planting of more than a million trees has been taken off the market by its new owners.

Cambusmore Estate had been put up for sale twice in a matter of months as land values rocketed amid a clamour to cash in on environmental schemes bankrolled by public money.

Experts say government grants are increasing land value as investment firms and big business compete to buy up biodiverse Scottish land to offset their carbon footprint.

Reform urged as investors cash in on green schemes looking for land to offset carbon emissions

The estate in Sutherland, 44 miles north of Inverness, was sold by a farmer a year after he secured a £3.2m grant to plant 1.4 million trees over three years.

The woodland scheme was hailed as the largest this century when it was given the green light in December 2020, with the trees capturing 50,000 tonnes of carbon by 2045 – the equivalent of emissions from 11,000 cars being used for a year.

A company part-owned by businessman Sandy Adam and his son, Gordon, bought Cambusmore and promptly put a swathe back up for sale. The brochure advertising Cambusmore Estate said the buyer would have a significant opportunity to generate carbon credits from the new woodland, as well as an estimated 750 hectares of degraded peatland.

It has now been taken off the market with the owners intending to draw down the public money from the woodland scheme and seek a share of a £250m, 10-year funding package set aside by the Scottish Government to restore 250,000 hectares of degraded peat by 2030.

Secret sales: Community fears as land prices rocket for carbon offsetting forests

Sandy Adam, who owns housing developers Springfield Properties, and who has previously donated £100,000 to the SNP, has a minority stake in Cambusmore Ltd. His son, Gordon, is the principal owner, according to the land agent, Peter Graham.

He said: “I think they were just floating it on the market to see if it might work and they decided they didn’t want to sell it.

“They’re going ahead with all the planting and natural regeneration of woodland and hoping to get into the peatland scheme and one or two other bits and pieces like that.”

Forestry Scotland, which awarded the woodland grant to the previous owner, said: “We are close to finalising the paperwork with Cambusmore Ltd to agree the succession of the woodland creation contract. We have not paid them any money as yet.”