The aim of this study was to enable local people to express their views on life in Strathdearn, what their hopes and concerns were for the future, what development, if any, they wished and just as important, where they do not wish to see development. The priorities that emerged from this research will help create a community development plan upon which sensitive future development can be built.
A questionnaire was the main research tool used to capture the views and opinions of local people. 135 questionnaire returns were received. The framework used for the study was a „sustainable community‟ (as defined by the Egan Review, 2004). The questionnaire was designed in conjunction with the Strathdearn Community Council and based upon CADISPA‟s experience of conducting a substantial number of similar studies in other rural locations across Scotland. We supplemented the questionnaire by interviewing local businesses, a range of community groups and both primary and secondary school pupils. The field research took place in August 2010.
The key findings/recommendations of the study are as follows:
- That the Community Council researches the option of setting up a local Development Trust that has the legal authority to employ people and to own assets in Trust on behalf of the community.
- That the Community Council consider developing a five year „local action plan‟ (mandated by local people and as a part of a local strategic plan) that pulls together business development interests, social and educational opportunities, housing and other local development needs.
- That a local Development Trust is established and tasked with the implementation of this plan in partnership with the Community Council, Community Trust and local businesses.
- That local people are brought more central to the discussions and decision making that affects their quality of life.
- That a balanced approach to development is taken by the Community Council that strives for greater vibrancy of Strathdearn but in doing so does not destroy the ambiance of the area.
- That the Community Council considers developing strategic alliances with organisations working in similar areas to increase their knowledge and effectiveness.
- That the Community Council takes a more critical stance towards the wind farm developments proposed for the area, and that they seek maximum community benefits for local people from those developments that gain planning permission in the immediate area.
- That the Community Council are pro-active in sourcing up-to-date information and the best possible advice available to enable them to
- represent the views of the Strathdearn community as effectively as they can in community benefit negotiations.
- That Community Trust finances are made available to the Community Council to enable best advice to be sought.
- That closer links are established between the local businesses community and the Community Council.
- That the Community Council identifies good quality space for premises for small business developments and start-ups, as a part of an area wide strategic development plan. An asset register of available space should be drawn up.
- That the Community Council investigates options to provide the community with a larger, meeting or gathering space in which to host community events.
- That the Community Council ensures that there is wider public representation amongst its members by addressing any barriers, real or perceived that exist within the community.
- That members of the public are able to offer their support to the Community Council by standing for election.
- That monies presently accruing within the Community Trust are used for a wider variety of local, community projects and services.
- That the Community Council widens its current remit to include some responsibility for local job creation.
- That consideration is given to funding the employment of a person or persons to address the immediate needs of the villages.
- That immediate recognition is given to the concerns that local people have over the planned pub and shop development and negotiations begin, with urgency, to find a compromise solution.
- That an assurance be given to the residents of Strathdearn that the land on which the pub is sited, once cleared, will not be the subject to an alternative planning application which will use the site entirely for housing purposes.
- That priority should be made for the provision of affordable housing that is accessible to local people, by the Community Council.
- That ways should be found to enable local people to get equal access to housing, within legal parameters.
- That ways should be found to increase the rented accommodation sector in Strathdearn.
- That the possibility of re-opening the railway station at Tomatin should be investigated as a priority.That consideration be given to bringing the railway station site into public ownership as soon as is possible to prevent this asset being sold for another use.
- That public transport timetabling issues be resolved to allow greater access to services and an increased quality of life for all ages.
- That the current medical services be improved by the provision of a regular district nurse and prescription delivery service.
- That new social opportunities are investigated for the young and the elderly residents in the area e.g. youth club for teenagers and lunch club for the elderly.
- That ways are found to establish Tomatin and Moy as tourist „destinations‟ in their own right, shaped by the people who live in those areas.
- That basic amenities such as public toilets, a cafe and a re-fuelling station become a part of the strategic development plan of Strathdearn.
- That the Community Council brings the „Paths Project‟ to a successful conclusion.
- That traffic calming measures in affected areas are investigated.
- Priority is given to creating a safe stop on the A9 (in both directions) and associated safe passageway, for young people on their way to and from school from the villages.
- That educational opportunities are created within the area in order that people can access opportunities to increase their own skill sets or qualifications. A Community Development Trust, Social Enterprise or private company could usefully provide this service.
- That land be identified and released from private and public owners to enable housing and other community facilities to be built.
- That land could be released to enable more tenanted farms to be established.
- That options to market the cultural heritage of the area be investigated as a potential vehicle for economic regeneration.
- That the Community Council (perhaps through a subsidiary group/organisation) help local people to map their carbon footprint by making an application to the Climate Challenge Fund.
- That better broadband and mobile phone reception coverage options are investigated to enable business to become more effective and communication to flow more readily across the area.
- That the possibility of setting up a farmers market is investigated as a way of enabling local people and tourists to purchase local produce.
Strategy for Development Agenda
There is a need for a specific development agenda and action plan to take the community of Strathdearn into the future. The findings outlined in this report which has gathered, analysed and examined the concerns, needs and hopes of local people should provide a basis for a development strategy for positive and sensitive change. Importantly, a development strategy based on these findings can confidently be said to have the support of the local community and to focus community effort on the issues of need that have been identified. Local people should lead on development seeking external advice and support where necessary and thereby be able to resist unwanted or inappropriate proposals which may work against the immediate and mandated priorities of local people.
This study has identified a number of issues that are of concern to people living in the Strathdearn community. The purpose of the CADISPA study was to clarify those issues for local people in order to prioritise what is needed, and develop an action agenda accordingly. Underpinning this work is the recognition that much of what is specified here will necessarily have to be driven by local people. Inevitably, this will be a new role for some people to play, and they may come to this a little reluctantly and perhaps with a limited understanding of how to engage with these issues in a way that will bring success and new life to the area.
CADISPA would be delighted to help with the journey ahead should local people feel that this would be acceptable.