TWO community groups in southern Scotland have welcomed what one called the “momentous” decision by Buccleuch to give them more time to prepare bids for Langholm Moor.

Newcastleton and District Community Trust and the Langholm Moor Community Buy Out Group now have until March before the land goes on the open market.

Barbara Elborn, the trust’s secretary, said yesterday: “We welcome Buccleuch’s announcement and that efforts locally have been heard, and we thank the estate for giving us the time to explore the opportunity of securing the land for community benefit.

“The south of Scotland has lagged well behind other parts of Scotland in acquiring land for its communities, this is now our time.

“The challenge this present us is huge but Newcastleton and District Community Trust, the wider community and our neighbours, will do our utmost to ensure that the time granted to us is used to explore the opportunity this affords us as a community.

“Whilst this might not be a situation that we had ever envisaged, it does create one of the most exciting opportunities in living memory, the challenge will be immense but it is a challenge that our whole community is up for and we look forward to working with our neighbours to pull this off.”

READ MORE: We’ve made progress on land reform but we’re just tinkering at the margins

The trust said: “The momentous decision by Buccleuch to sell off Langholm Moor has created one of the biggest opportunities and challenges for Newcastleton and those living in the Liddesdale valley in our history.

“We passionately believe in our heritage and landscape; it has served us for generations, and we will work hard to ensure that it continues to serve us for the generations to come.”

The Langholm Moor Community Buy Out Group has been canvassing support for its bid and needed signatures from 10% of the local population of 2900.

It is understood that the level of support was significantly above that figure and its working party said it was delighted with the announcement, adding: “Although we have a rough idea we are currently collating all the data and will announce the final figures of our petition soon.”

The moor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protected Area because it is a breeding area for hen harriers.

Kevin Cumming, from the group, said they envisaged a visitor centre and nature reserve, which would include conserving species and their habitat.

“Areas of rewilding could be designated,” he said. “These could encourage scientific interest to answer some of the questions surrounding rewilding, with possible funding for research.”