Big Lottery Fund Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have been supporting communities empower themselves since 2006, through the ownership of land and buildings – strengthening their voices in the decisions that matter to them. Here Ailsa Raeburn, Head of Community Assets at Highlands and Islands Enterprise highlights the success of one project in North Ayrshire to stress help is now available to urban projects as well as rural ones.
Talk to people about community land buyouts and they tend to think of the most remote communities in the Highlands and Islands trying to bring young people back to their area or protect their heritage and landscape for generations to come.
There are some wonderful examples of communities such as these being transformed since the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003, and they account for much of the 480,000 acres of land estimated to be in community ownership throughout Scotland.
You might be more surprised to hear that community buyouts, backed by the Scottish Land Fund, are also taking place across the central belt and southern Scotland. Far from buying empty land, some of the community purchases have involved landmark buildings, alongside exciting plans to use the facilities to transform areas economically.
Take Beith Trust’s acquisition of Geilsland Campus where the Church of Scotland residential criminal justice property was one of the North Ayrshire town’s longstanding features, but was being decommissioned. With backing from the Scottish Land Fund Beith Trust received £512,000 to buy the six-hectare site and create a magnet for tourists, businesses and the local community – but that was just the beginning.
Beith Trust is now seeking a £600,000 grant to redevelop the property. Its plans for the site include sports facilities and workshops and space for artists. The Trust aims to re-position the campus as a ‘Gateway to North Ayrshire’.
Further developments in land reform mean this kind of ambitious community will become more commonplace. Changes to the law will allow communities across Scotland to use the Community Right to Buy provisions.
Big Lottery Fund Scotland and the Community Assets Team at Highlands and Islands Enterprise are working closely to develop and support more projects such as Beith. These kinds of projects can only happen when a community gets together. Fittingly, part of last year’s legislation was entitled The Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) 2015, and that is exactly what it should do.
Community ownership empowers communities. By owning land, property and other assets communities can generate income, create jobs, provide vital services and undertake projects that retain and attract new people to their communities. It is a privilege to work with communities and enable them to fulfill their potential as we help achieve some of the aims of the Community Empowerment and Land Reform legislation.
Big Lottery Fund Scotland delivers the Scottish Land Fund in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
For more information go to: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/slf