Those of you wondering about progress on the Community Hub project may not have seen much activity on the surface but like the proverbial duck, there has been a lot of furious paddling going on beneath. Here’s a quack summary ….
After our old hall was condemned, a replacement became top priority. We also urgently need a permanent home for our community shop. The shop is a service to the community and is not intended to make a profit, and although the hall and sports area will generate some income through hire fees, not enough to cover its running costs. Our wind farm money will not last for ever, so we plan to cover the shortfall in two ways : we will invest in quality materials and an energy-efficient design to create a low-maintenance building with minimum running costs; and we will incorporate a gift/craft & cafe area alongside the shop to cater for tourists and even small distillery coach parties and thus generate an income from visitors. Millennium Hall will be converted to house the shop and cafe, conveniently close to the new hall to provide opportunities to save on staff, heating, security, etc.
It’s not going to be cheap - £2.4 million! - but we believe we are getting good value for money which compares well with buildings of similar size and quality. The new hall will have a floor area of 795 m² - increased from 550 m² in response to consultation with user groups on their space and storage requirements. It will incorporate toilets/changing rooms which will enable us to better market the sports facility, an upstairs youth area, and its own kitchen for weddings and functions. The building will also function as a resilience centre in times of extended power cuts or extreme weather. The figure includes the cost of converting and extending Millennium Hall to 240 m².
We applied to the Big Lottery for a grant towards the cost. When we began the process more than a year ago, we were one of several hundred applications. We survived the first culling, then made it to a second shortlist of a few dozen who were interviewed by a BL panel, and now finally we are one of just a handful of projects still being considered for funding. We are asking for £1million when the average award is £750K so we are taking nothing for granted. A huge thanks to Charles Morgan for foregoing his summer holiday in favour of guiding the application through its final crucial stage.
Naturally enough Big Lottery had a list of stringent conditions, all of which took time to fulfil.
They required that our plans were scrutinised by a quantity surveyor, and that we conducted a preliminary survey of the site including some test pits. We applied for and received grants from BL to cover these development costs.
We also had to prove that we had the funding in place to complete the project at its estimated cost. Charles arranged a loan facility with Social Investment Scotland Bank which required a lengthy process of due diligence which I’m pleased to report that all the directors passed!
At the core of our application is a 48-page strategic review detailing the background, needs and aspirations behind out funding request, including sections on finance, alternate fund-raising, our other projects, community consultation, fact-finding visits, and more. If our application is successful, it will be due in no small measure to the tremendous work and professionalism of our admin team - Victoria, Tricia, Joan, and Ed who compiled and wrote this document. It will be made available on our website when the application process is over.
Our completed application will be considered by the Big Lottery panel when they meet in September and we hope to hear the result in October. Our admin team will then finalise applications to other possible grant sources - our chances of winning them may be enhanced by Big Lottery endorsement. This will be done as quickly as possible so that work can begin with a minimum of delay.
Fingers crossed, everybody!
In November last year, Moy voted almost unanimously to support an SCD project to bring fibre cabinets to the area. However before engineers had finished surveying the job, a new cheaper method of installing fibre cable became available. Consequently Open Reach has come back to SCD with a much better offer for the same price - fibre cable direct to every premise and speeds of up to 330 Mbps for EVERY home!! After a two week consultation period with Moy folk in which we received nothing but enthusiastic feedback, SCD gave Open Reach the formal go ahead to proceed with the scheme. Work will begin in late August/early September and is scheduled to finish by Christmas.
Open Reach engineers will soon begin a survey up to and beyond Glenmazeran to explore whether SCD's broadband project can be extended to this area. Due to the greater distances involved, we are encouraging local landowners and householders to consider how they can contribute. The scheme's viability will probably depend on locals undertaking to do some of the work on a DIY basis and/or contributing a proportion of the cost.
Because we have demonstrated that we are serious about improving broadband throughout Strathdearn, Open Reach is willing to invest some it's time and resources surveying an area which they normally wouldn't consider viable. Soon they will get back to us with some costed options and SCD may only have a short time window to assess whether it can responsibly back any of them.
Looking for a different way to enjoy your day whilst helping the Community? Why not spend a day with a friend running the shop? A chance to catch up with friends and neighbours whilst supporting the shop. We are looking for community volunteers to help by giving occasional cover to run the shop. WRT directors, Alison and Margaret, will be first to be trained but regret tartan paint will not be available on their day behind the counter. No previous experience required, full training will be given and we promise not to sign you up for more than you wish. If interested please contact Lee-Anne in the shop.
Thanks to Carol and the gardening club for planting flowers and brightening up the store front. Cyclists and travellers using the picnic benches now have a lovely area to sit and enjoy their lunch.
There have been some minor issues with people leaving their cars parked for long periods of time when they aren't visiting the shop. There are only 4 parking spaces so please be considerate.
SCD Board is pondering the cost of additional requirements demanded by the roads department to meet new planning conditions. A cost revision carried out by McGowan’s indicates a price tag several times the original quote. Engineers acting on behalf of SCD have been in contact with Planning to see if a solution can be found to relax the conditions and allow the project to complete in an affordable manner. Lead director Duncan Bryden is consulting with local councillors in an effort to find a way to progress.
There is a feeling that this stage of the path project is unviable unless a compromise can be found. Barring a breakthrough, a decision on whether to proceed with the project will be put to company members at the AGM on 27th Sep.
Don’t forget to check Strathdearn Community Website for bin days, bus timetables, school holidays, library van visiting hours, local news, SCD and Community Council documents, photo gallery, and much, much more.
The next two SCD meetings are July 27 and Aug 24, and our AGM will be 27th Sep, all in Strathdearn Hall at 7.30pm.
SCD Membership forms are available from the Company Secretary, Strathdearn Hall, IV13 7YN, or you can apply online through the community website : www.strathdearn.org. Membership entitles you to attend our meetings, stand for election as a company director, vote in elections, and receive news updates.
Welcome to the new look SCD NEWS. As part of our obligation to consult and inform the community, Strathdearn Community Developments Co. will publish a detailed progress report in every Newsletter and if anything particularly urgent or newsworthy comes up in between, we will email or post additional updates to our members. These reports will also be published on the community website to form a permanent searchable record.
These are exciting times in Strathdearn. We are making good progress on many of the projects identified by the Cadispa survey - better medical services, a path through the village and improved broadband. Two other items on the list - a cafe and public toilets - will be incorporated into the new community hub which has been prioritised due to the condemning of our old hall. In addition, SCD has taken over running our local shop.
These changes will affect all of us for a long time to come so SCD needs to be confident it has your support. Two way communication is the key - you need to know what we're planning and we need to know what you think about it. We'll do our bit through SCD NEWS and the website and then it's up to you to make your voice heard and your opinions known.
You'll find out elsewhere in this bulletin how to get more involved, but you can start right now by considering as you read this first SCD NEWS how it can be improved. If you have any thoughts or suggestions regarding the style, layout or content, we'd like to hear them.
A full strategic plan is now being worked upon by the Admin team for submission by the deadline of the 25th May 2017 for our Big Lottery fund application. The procurement procedure for the appointment of an independent Quantity Surveyor (QS) for the new hall build, has been completed, and a short list of applicants was reviewed. The Torrance Partnership have been selected as the QS to review project costs for the hall design prior to going out to tender for the new build and they will commence work immediately. The fee for Torrance Partnership to complete the first part of the cost review is paid for by the Big Lottery under our development funding application. In addition to the Big Lottery Application we are now progressing other fund raising avenues. An application to the Bank of Scotland Foundation Fund has been submitted specifically to cover the cost of the power source for the new hub complex.
Planning permission for the new hub may be viewed on line at: http://wam.highland.gov.uk/wam/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=OBFR1FIHHHV00
An annual review has taken place with DTAS, for grant funding for the Administration team. Last financial year 2016/17 SCD received £43000 which included £3k for capital equipment and we are delighted that the grant objectives have been reviewed and objectives met. It is with great pleasure that the board can announce, that SCD will receive the grant funding for the Admin team for another year. This will be £40k for the year 2017/18. The recommendation from DTAS is that a third year of funding would be recommended, should it be needed.
Our project to bring superfast broadband to Moy residents has been praised by BT and promoted on their website as a model for other rural communities which is fantastic news. Agreements have been signed with Openreach for three cabinets to be installed and BT have promised the work will be completed by Christmas. Nearly every home in the area registered for a Better Broadband voucher of £350, considerably reducing the cost to the community. Plans to investigate the viability of extending the scheme to other areas have been put on hold until BT complete promised upgrades of Tomatin and Glen Mazaran exchanges. Read the full story on BT's website HERE.
Who are MAKAR?
What happened to the path?
Why will the hub cost so much?
SCD admin staff have created a FAQ to answer these and other Frequently Asked Questions. You will find it in the SCD section of the community website HERE.
The SCD board continues to review the additional requirements imposed by the roads department to meet the conditions of planning. Local councillors have been encouraged to coordinate a meeting to see if we can reach a compromise and Mark Clough of Highland Council is consulting with engineers on options for a green verge (not kerbed) with occasional drain ‘offlets’ and alternative re surfacing (currently bitmac is specified) reducing the amount of retaining wall needed. However, if alternatives are found then it will probably mean applying for a formal variation to the conditions – more time and possibly more upfront cost if technical drawings are needed, but would result in a reduction in capital cost. We hope to have a response from Highland Council soon and will keep everyone updated.
The community website has several new features. The online booking system is ready to use you can now check availability, book a room or sports facility, and pay for it by cheque, BACS or credit card. (You do not have to use the new system, you can continue to book and pay the same way you have always done). To attract more bookings from outside our area, we are working on an enhanced website description of the hall facilities together with a promotional leaflet. Take a stroll down memory lane - the redesigned photo gallery features pictures of Strathdearn people and places spanning over a century (more contributions welcome).
Highland Home Care now have a new manager, Angela MacDonald who will be SCD’s main contact. We are delighted to say that Highland Home Care will be providing further training to the staff covering our area. Currently six Strathdearn residents are registered with numbers looking to rise in the future. This is a great service within the community which offers both a lifeline to our residents as well as providing local employment.
An expression of community interest in Glenkirk was submitted to the Forestry Commission under the Community Asset Transfer programme. However, when the SCD Ltd board discussed possible acquisition at the board meeting of the 23 March 2017 it was decided to withdraw our interest.
The principle reasons being concerns over Glenkirk becoming a viable community asset given access issues and distance from the village. SCD Ltd also has major commitments with the shop and community hub projects, especially to win funding. A letter has been sent explaining this decision to the chair of the Community Council Mrs V Roden. It is important to note that the Board was keen to investigate further woodland opportunities in Strathdearn as part of a package of future projects.
Lee Anne and her staff continue to work hard in the shop providing a much needed service within the village. They have completed their first stocktake since takeover and are constantly looking at ways to improve the current stock. Management accounts have now been issued and show that the shop traded at a loss over the winter months but every effort is being made to reverse these losses.
A new shop sign has been put up along with plans for a new rail and paint to freshen up the entrance to welcome in all customers. Please remember the shop is community owned and needs your support.
Don’t forget to check Strathdearn Community Website for local news, useful information, SCD and Community Council documents, photo gallery, and much more.
We regret to announce we are losing a valuable member of the administration team, but delighted to announce we have found a great replacement.
The SCD board and team would like to thank Fiona Fraser for her most valuable contribution and wish her every success in the future. The White River Trading admin post was advertised, interviews held and we are delighted to welcome Joan MacQueen who will start the position in May. The post is funded by Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS).
We encourage you to become a member of Strathdearn Community Developments Company. Benefits include the right to attend SCD meetings, stand for election as a company director and vote in elections. You can find an online membership form in the SCD section of the website HERE, or you can request a printed form from the Company Secretary, Strathdearn Hall, IV13 7YN.
The next two SCD meetings are scheduled for May 25 and June 29. We meet in Strathdearn Hall at 7.30pm.