Strathdearn Community Developments Co. has begun the 'Small Wins' programme which we announced some time ago. The idea is to tackle smaller jobs which will have an immediate benefit for our community but don't require all the planning and permissions of a bigger project.
In response to comments from several people about the state of signage in the area we employed local window cleaner Myles Evans & Co. Ltd to clean 12 signs in the Strathdearn area (see below) and all of the windows at the Millennium hall at a cost of £165. This was completed on the 16th March 2018.
Most of the signs came up well however, some had a surface that was disintegrating - the three signs marked with an asterisk in the list below were notified as being the worst. These have been reported to the Highland Council and a response is expected by the 05/04/2018, the community council have also been notified of this action.
Glen Road Sign
Steve Culeen has removed the wooden sign outside the hall so that it can be dried out, cleaned up and re-varnished.
Station Road pot-holes
We are very grateful to SSEN (Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks) for offering us a 'volunteering day,' whereby personnel from the company provide a day's labour to help the community in some way. SCD suggested that the potholes on Station Road could be filled in as this was highlighted as a problem at the community council meetings.
Neil Macdonald, Site Construction Manager at the Tomatin substation, and the Construction Manager of Amey are happy to help for 8 hours with manpower and the use of equipment (which they don’t normally offer) and they hope to provide a motorised roller and possibly a mini digger.
Due to the weather they won’t be able to commence until April 2018. On Monday 19th March they visited the site and plan to meet with SCD Director Jimmy Duncan to discuss any further requirements.
Once a date has been agreed then SCD will purchase 20 tonnes of 20mm stone & dust scaplings (as recommended by the quarry) at a cost of £17.31 a tonne + VAT = £415 including delivery from Daviot quarry. The company can turn around a delivery in a day.
SCD will buy 4 timber planters and 1 hanging column planter which will be sited at the shop and hall. Carol James, Chair of the Strathdearn gardening club, has agreed to look after these floral arrangements. Moy sub-committee is investigating purchasing similar installations for the Moy area. Once the total number is settled, the planters will be ordered and hopefully be in place six weeks later.
If you have any ideas for future 'Small Wins' projects, please let us know.
The headline news this edition is our failure to secure a Big Lottery grant. This is a serious blow to our plans for the Community Hub and will have a knock-on effect for all our other projects. Before considering how we deal with this set-back, we should first face up to a harsh truth. The following summary, including feedback from the Big Lottery, tells the story :
The Big Lottery received 3248 applications for funding. From these, 48 projects were chosen to receive a site visit from lottery fund managers. Our visit was in November 2017 when Charles, Ed, Victoria and all SCD directors met with the lottery fund panel in Strathdearn Hall and explained our plans in great detail. Following this, ours was one of 10 projects invited to apply for the final funding stage. A huge amount of work went into expanding and developing our application. Big Lottery paid for exploratory excavations on the site and a quantity surveyor to scrutinise our plans. The Lottery panel met on the 21st September and of the 10 applications, 4 were funded and 6 and were declined. The reason the Lottery panel gave for turning us down was that the Strathdearn community were better resourced going forward than any other applicant, taking into consideration the funds available to the community at the time of application.
So our failure wasn't for the lack of a well planned project which filled an urgent need in our community, nor for the lack of an excellent application. We were turned down because in these times of austerity, we had too much money in the bank. That's the lesson we have to face up to - before we can realistically expect outside help to improve our community, we first have to spend what we've got. There are grants available even in these straitened times, but until we put our own money where our mouth is, we will always be seen as rich beggars.
Of course the silver lining, literally, is that we do have money in the bank. We are lucky enough to have a healthy account balance and a regular income from the windfarms, and of course we planned for an eventuality without a Big Lottery grant. So yes, if we scale back a little, we can have our new hall, cafe and shop and we can continue to improve daily life in Strathdearn, but we will have to dig into our own pockets to do it.
By spending wisely now, we can leverage funds in the future. Once we have used our own money to provide lasting benefits for our community, we can then approach funding sources and say "Look what we've achieved on our own, we can do so much more if you help us." We will be attractive to grant bodies because we can demonstrate that we won't waste their money, and because we will need their help rather than just want it.
Applying for a Lottery grant was a process we had to go through. The potential reward, £1 million, was too big to turn our back on, but it cost us more than a year. We have plenty to show for that time - a comprehensive documentation of our community's situation and needs, past present and future, which will form the basis of our negotiations with the outside world for a long time to come; we got thousands of pounds from Big Lottery to research our plans and site which we would otherwise have had to pay for ourselves; much of our architectural planning will be revised and implemented - but the fact remains that we'd be closer to completing the Hub if we'd gone it alone. So let's learn this lesson too - by taking matters into our own hands we can achieve our much needed goals that much sooner.
This is the community's future we're talking about. It's too big a decision for SCD to make on its own - the whole community has to decide how we use our windfarm windfall. It will be contentious. Some will want to keep the money safe for a rainy day while some will prefer to make hay while the sun shines. Some of our funds are in SCD accounts and some in the Charitable Trust's.
The intention of this article is to raise awareness, concentrate minds, initiate a debate, and prepare the ground for this very important decision. There is no advantage in long delay. SCD will plan how best to ensure full, well-informed participation in this choice. If you have any suggestions in this regard, please use the contact addresses available elsewhere in this bulletin. If you have strong feelings one way or the other and would like assistance to publicise your opinion, SCD would be happy to help. Just get in touch.
OK, that's it. Go forth and argue.
Lee-Anne has been working without a day off for quite some time. We've had no success with our search for paid staff locally so Mhairi has posted adverts on Carrbridge and Strathnairn Facebook pages. Do you know anyone who might be interested?
We are also seeking volunteers to take a turn behind the counter. If you can spare a few hours now and again, you will give Lee-Anne and Mags a well-earned break, catch up with the local craic, and help make the shop more profitable. If we can't get more help one way or another, there is a real possibility that we will have to reduce shop opening hours. Please contact Lee-Anne if you can help.
Here's another way to support the shop : buy a strong re-usable cotton shopping bag, custom made with a competition-winning design by Primary 1 pupil Laila Brunton, and the message "I support Tomatin Community Shop." What a great Christmas present for friends and family who've moved away.
Finally, how's this for good timing with winter just round the corner? The shop now stocks firewood, kindling and coal supplied by Tomatin Firewood.
The Moy section of this project is nearing fruition. Openreach engineers have installed the main fibre cable through the area and are now connecting individual premises to it. Any day now the the first groups of premises will be given the go ahead to ask Zen or BT to supply them with superfast broadband. A handy guide to this process can be found on the front page of the Community website.
We continue to work with Openreach to explore broadband options for households around Clune and up to Glenmazeran and beyond. The wilder terrain and longer distances between premises make this a more challenging project. We have some ballpark figures which give us an idea of the scale of the task. It will be difficult to achieve but not impossible if we can bring together contributions from all the potential sources we are aware of, including landowners, SCD, the Trust, Openreach, Highland Council and others. We hope to have firm figures soon.
Section 8 of the Paths Project is still on hold due to onerous conditions imposed by Highland Council. While the Planning Dept supports our plans, the Roads Dept insist the path must incorporate drainage capable of withstanding Biblical floods at an estimated cost of £132,000. This is eight times our original estimate and plainly unjustifiable for our community. We were considering some fairly drastic options to break the logjam but meetings with Councillor Ken Gowans have offered a glimmer of hope. He has offered to seek additional funding through Safer Route Scotland and other council funds in an attempt to bridge the gap between our resources and the Council's demands. We will therefore dig deep into our reserves of patience and await developments ..... again!
At last year's AGM, we had to put out more seating to cope with the capacity crowd, so for this year's AGM we filled every available space and only a quarter as many turned up. You're just toying with us, aren't you! We had an interesting and informative meeting nonetheless, and those stalwarts who did attend more than made up for the absentees with useful suggestions and knowledgeable questions.
Chairman Richard Cooling summarised our progress and achievements over the last year and the challenges ahead. The Company accounts for the past 2 years were ratified and various amendments to the articles of association were voted through, with one amendment being deferred. The recent news that we hadn't won a Big Lottery grant loomed large, and Richard and Duncan Bryden explored the implications for our ongoing plans.
Some of the points raised from the floor were : a new hall should be our top priority, over and above plans to incorporate a cafe and shop; without Lottery funding, we should develop the hall site in stages as finance becomes available; the pot holes in Station Road rendered that stage of the path to the North end of Tomatin impractical for pushchairs; that the community should be given the opportunity to participate in the many design choices in and around the new Hub.
The current membership status of SCD ltd is 150 ordinary members 12 associate members and 7 junior members.
The next SCD meeting is on 12th December 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 special updates.
We appeal to all members of Strathdearn Community Developments to attend our AGM at Strathdearn Hall, 7.00pm, Wednesday 27th September 2017. There will be membership forms available at the door for instant enrolment. We have important news and big decisions to make. Please come along and get involved. Refreshments (sourced from our community shop) will be supplied.
7.10pm Welcome and apologies to note
Chairman’s report –
including presentation of Accounts 2015-2016 & 2016-2017
7.40pm Break for refreshments
8.05pm Election of Directors
8.10pm Special resolutions
8.25pm Update on New Community Hub
8.45pm Paths Project – options for Section 8 (Hall to Juniper Drive)
SCD is very sorry to lose the services of Victoria Cameron-Macintosh as Funding and Administration Officer. Her resoucefuless, enthusiasm and professionalism will be hard to replace. Nonetheless, that's what we now need to do, so please read the job description below and contact us if you would like to apply. The hours are flexible and can mostly be done from home. You do not need to be resident in Strathdearn. Please spread the news about this opportunity.
Funding and Administration Officer
21 Hours per week - £27,300 pro rata
The local community development company has a vacancy until March 2018 funded by the Scottish Government to assist in the development of the local facilities. Below is a job description for the Funding and Administration Officer:
Reporting to Community Development Officer
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.
Following the fantastic news that we now have full planning permission for the new Community Hub we are now contacting people who have previously used the hall or would use it in the future to hear in more detail just what you or your group might need or would like to see in our new facility. We would really appreciate a few moments of your time to complete the following questionnaire -
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.