“A social enterprise to steward the land and develop sustainable community within The Park Ecovillage at Findhorn”
In the caravan near the entrance to East Whins I talk to Duneland’s current managing director John Gordon, who took over from David Hammond and his predecessor Jonathan Caddy. Nikki Taylor is also present.
John tells me that 60 shareholders, all community members associated with the Findhorn Foundation and its values, provided the original capital to buy Wilkie’s Estate, creating the limited company Duneland in 1997. The land covered 145 hectares, including 12 ha of woodland, 4 ha of potential development land and over 80 ha of ecologically rare and sensitive dunes. Duneland then gifted 59% or 175 acres to the local area, put into the Findhorn Dunes Trust (FDT), to be preserved as a nature reserve in perpetuity, in co-operation with Findhorn village. Duneland sold 35% or over 100 acres to the Findhorn Foundation, managed by the Findhorn Hinterland Group, a community volunteering conservation group, as amenity land including a Green Burial Site and buffer zone between wild dunes and residential areas.
“It was a generous offer,” John Gordon says. ”The Duneland shareholders, never actually had any dividend back from their investment. Some are lucky to break even, some admit they wrote that money off. I don’t think their philanthropy is always appreciated, as they are sometimes unfairly considered to be just another development company.” John continues: “Only 6% or 16 acres of the estate were designated for development – the biggest area being the Magic Triangle”. John explains that there are strict guidelines for architects and that every plan must go through the Park Planning Group (PPG) and be displayed for community view and feedback.
Duneland works with an Essential Guide to Home Ownership, for potential buyers. Can anyone buy a house here? How to deal with the fear of diluting the eco-spiritual core of the community? “New buyers get approved by the Title Holders Association (THS) and they have to aspire our Common Ground.“
What inspires John to do this work? “I live in Burghead. Before January 2013 I had never been through the gate of The Park. I come from a construction background where results are important. I would not say I was inspired, I’m a pensioner and was enjoying my retirement, when asked to help out for two weeks. Now it has grown on me, I’m learning on the job and I would not want to leave anymore! Being an ‘outsider’ to start with, I had no past history in the community. Without being arrogant, I could see a very clear perspective and keep a clear vision and goal for Duneland, as I did not have to take care of all the many distractions of the whole community. Although it is a challenge from time to time; it inspires me to continue.
SOME FACTS of ‘Duneland’ :
Legal status: Business; a company owned by investors (shareholders)
Board of Directors: John Gordon (Managing Director), Eian Smith (Chair), Joan Wilmot (Founding Director/shareholder), Alex Walker, John Buck, Bruce & Lori Wallace, Stephen Neall
Employees: Nikki Taylor (bookkeeper/ administrator), John Lowe (company secretary)
Contact: Email: tel: 01309 692074
Office: The Park, Findhorn, Forres IV36 3TZ
Website: www.duneland.co.uk (not updated) and http://dunelanduk.tumblr.com
Year founded: 1997, when community members bought the Wilkie Estate, north of the Foundation’s property.
Mission: Stewarding the land and developing a sustainable ecovillage community project within the Magic Triangle in the Park.
Previous activities: Creation of the Findhorn Dunes Trust protecting 175 acres; initiating the Findhorn Hinterland Group; to gain outline planning approval for and develop East Whins co-housing cluster with 32 houses including shared facilities.
Current and near future activities: West Whins eco-housing cluster: 20 houses/plots including providing five affordable houses in cooperation with PET. Consider further development approved by the community
Income comes from: Sales of shares to investors and sales of plots for housing/self-build