Carbon Matters 7: Resilient Land Use

Written By

Suzy O’Leary, Fraser Maitland

12.6.2024 Thinking

As part of our Carbon Matters series, we want to share some of our thinking around long term development and land use. We have been working with Luss Estates Company to help develop a 10-year Land Use and Development Plan for their landholding to the west of Loch Lomond in the context of the climate and biodiversity crisis, as well as other issues including rural depopulation, a post-pandemic tourism surge, and cost-of-living challenges.

In 2023 Luss Estates Company carried out a carbon audit of their estate to understand their current impact and identify the potential for carbon reduction and sequestering over the next 20-30 years. The Estate is currently net carbon negative, taking into account successful initiatives including a community hydroelectric power scheme, two peatland restoration projects, a biomass boiler heating the local hotel, and over three quarters of a million trees planted in the last ten years. However, the audit identified that 73% of carbon emissions from the estate are from livestock enterprises, highlighting the challenges in land management with respect to farming and grazing.

As part of our project, we also looked at the rural communities of Luss, Arrochar and Tarbet to understand how the Estate can support sustainable development for the local population. These communities, like so many in Scotland, are struggling with a range of issues including unaffordable house prices, tourism management, limited employment options, and an ageing demographic, which together are contributing to population decline and development stagnation. We carried out a series of consultations with the local communities and business owners to understand the issues and identify their aspirations for the future. Excessive tourism, anti-social behaviour from visitors, traffic and poor public transport links were identified as issues, with a desire to develop local community based initiatives, affordable homes for local residents and better management of visitors.

The legislative context governing the Estate is complicated and wide ranging; from NPF4, to the National Park Partnership Plan, to Scottish Land Commission Protocols as well as various rural housing, placemaking, and tourism infrastructure guidelines. The basis of our development plan was to strike a balance between the needs of the local community, navigating the various policies whilst focussing on further carbon reduction and nature restoration.

The result is a 10 year roadmap for development with key environmental and community initiatives including:

  • Four projects to decarbonise the local energy system, including two additional hydroelectric schemes.
  • New safe public walking and cycling routes to improve connectivity between the villages;
  • Rebalanced land use to enhance carbon sequestration and biodiversity through deer and sheep population control, nature regeneration schemes, and management of non-native invasive species.;
  • Promotion of an Agri-Environment Climate Scheme;
  • Identification of sites for local housing;
  • A robust tourism management plan;
  • An employment stimulation plan.

As architects, we are well placed to strike the balance between the needs of local communities and the longer term needs of the environment, ensuring sustainable development is inclusive, practical and actionable to safeguard our places for the future.

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