Enterprise to pull out of ownership of Skye estate
Orbost Estate was bought to stimulate the local economy and encourage resettlement.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is to pull out of its ownership of Orbost Estate on the Isle of Skye.
The regional development agency bought the 2337-hectare estate in 1997 to stimulate the local economy and encourage resettlement by providing access to land and affordable housing.
But the move was met with local opposition including the Dunvegan Community Trust, the local community council and the local branch of the Scottish Crofters' Union.
It now comprises a 1690-hectare farm, six smallholdings, two workshops and 612 hectares of forestry.
Twelve people in five families now derive at least part of their income from commercial activity on the estate.
HIE say they always intended to transfer ownership, either to a community group or other interests that would protect tenants and provide long-term community and economic benefits.
HIE's exit plans include offering the farm and farmhouse for sale to the tenant and converting the smallholdings into six new crofts, which would also be offered for sale to the current tenants.
The HIE-owned housing will also be offered for sale, either to occupants or to the housing association.
The agency is currently exploring potential community interest in the forestry area before considering an open market sale.
Robert Muir, HIE's Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross area manager, said: "We've kept our ownership of Orbost estate under regular review. With the estate now in a much stronger position, we feel this is the time for HIE to begin a phased exit.
"This will be done in a way that protects tenants and the progress made so far and enables continuation of community and economic benefits long into the future."