Land reform issues are set to become an increasingly hot topic with new legislation about to come into force. It will encourage more communities to buy land and buildings in the heart of their local area that matters – expanding the buyouts to urban areas as well as rural – delivering social, environmental and economic benefits for generations to come. Here we take a look at one urban project breathing new life into an urban area following a community buyout.
Huntly & District Development Trust (HDDT) is a good example of the old Scottish saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.”
Established in 2009, HDDT is a community-owned company working with others to make Huntly and the surrounding district a better place to live, work and visit. With a population of 4,300 Huntly is a small market town 40 miles north west of Aberdeen.
Apart from projects to improve the town’s gateway with signage and developing its on-line presence the Trust undertook a number of feasibility studies for potential development opportunities in and around Huntly and developed a town sustainability plan and marketing plan.
One of the more ambitious proposals was a renewable energy project to provide an income for the community. After identifying a suitable site just outside Huntly, the Trust invested considerable time and effort to take the project forward.
Unfortunately in 2012, just as the project appeared to be reaching fruition, the owner of the site decided not to lease the land and the project collapsed. This had a demoralising effect on the community and raised concerns about the future of the Trust.
But a year later a small farm situated next to the site previously identified for the community turbine came onto the market. HDDT realised that all the information it had gained from the previous work in relation to the turbine would be valid for a site on Greenmyres farm – and that the house and outbuildings could also be developed for community use.
After applying to the Scottish Land Fund for a grant to purchase the farm, the Trust was awarded £369,268 in September 2013. It then secured planning consent for a wind turbine on the farm in September 2015 and this was followed by consent to convert the existing farmhouse into a community facility.
The Trust has also been successful in raising funds to create a cycle path link between the town and the farm. These twin successes have re-invigorated the Trust and boosted the confidence of the community in and around Huntly.
Jill Andrews, Project Manager with HDDT, said: “Community ownership of the land and buildings at Greenmyres farm has made a great difference to the local area. The Trust has become much more engaged with the local community, whose imagination was sparked by this project.
“The buyout has allowed the Trust to be enthusiastically linked and working with a number of diverse community organisations to whom the land, the space and the recreational potential all appeal.
“It has got us excited about the next stage of development which has the capacity to involve a huge number of local, and wider North East, groups in activities, workshops and events.”
The Scottish Land Fund says HDDT is a good example of perseverance – demonstrating that information gained from feasibility studies can be very useful even if the initial proposal fails. The learning from such studies can help determine the type of site that is needed to deliver a particular project. This makes it easier to identify the suitability of other opportunities when they arise, particularly at short notice.
For more information: www.huntlydevelopmenttrust.org