Issue 13

DEVELOPING CARLUKE

By Tom Sneddon, Chair, Carluke Development Trust

There are large numbers and a wide range of Development Trusts the length and breadth of Scotland, in Highlands; Lowlands; Islands and Cities . One of them is in Carluke.

A quick read through the Trust minutes for December 2015 reveals the type of local projects that are in their current portfolio.

Firstly, there is finding a new income generating use for the 33 acres of COMMONTY(2) land which we took ownership of on behalf of the town in January 2013. We have spent the last 18 months developing the idea of a solar farm, which was looking positive until the UK government in its wisdom decided to cut the subsidy available, thereby placing strain on this project going forward and indeed on the community solar PV sector In general, just as it was beginning to gain momentum.

…. difficult projects which are off the radar of most, if not all commercial developers and are not within the statutory responsibilities of the local authority. But this is just the kind of things Development Trusts do.

Our second project sees us moving into the funding phase of our endeavour to rescue and re-energise the town’s only Grade A listed building which sits some 500 metres from our ailing High Street. Carluke’s High Mill is Scotland’s National treasure. This 18th century mill is Scotland’s most important surviving windmill. The video on You Tube tells the story well. If we can pull this off, a revitalised High Mill could be a game changer for our town centre, generating much needed footfall through bringing hitherto unheard of tourists to the town, increasing business activity and creating jobs in its own right.

Our third project involves creating a new schools orchard for the town from an unused piece of ground, creating a new outdoor public space for education and bio-diversity, further enhancing this edge site to the town centre in the process, and with a training module thrown in for good measure.

Lastly , at least for here , we have our two annual festivals. Our annual road race takes place in May, run in conjunction with the Beatson Cancer charity and in October we have our Jam and Ham Festival which celebrates the town’s food heritage through music and fun. We run both to promote the town, generate some local activity and income for the Trust which is then reinvested in the projects we deliver.

These projects represent a tiny sample of the amazing breadth and diversity of activities carried out by the overall DTA Scotland membership throughout the whole of the country. What is clear is that without the likes of Development Trusts, as the main community anchor organisation in a place, many of these projects would not see the light of day. By their very nature they are difficult projects which are off the radar of most, if not all commercial developers and are not within the statutory responsibilities of the local authority. But this is just the kind of things Development Trusts do.

These types of projects are essential in repairing the urban fabric and in bringing back life and hope to those too easily forgotten areas of our villages, towns and cities.

In Carluke’s case, up until 18 months ago all the development work and relationship building required to take projects like these forward came from volunteer directors. In the summer of 2014, through the Scottish Government’s Strengthening Communities programme we managed along with others to successfully bid for funds to enable us to employ a full time development manager for a two year period.

Having this additional capacity doesn’t guarantee success – witness through no fault of our own, our solar farm ambition, but what it did result is a more effective and confident local organisation able to conduct business more professionally and within a quicker timeframe. We are now embarking on a plan B and C in respect to our renewables project being in a better position to react more quickly to both setbacks and opportunities. Having this capacity means that local social and business networks are enhanced and reinforced which in turn generates further activity.

There can be no doubt that the direction of travel by this government is for more decision making to be taken up by communities. The current policy agenda involves – community-led regeneration, community ownership of assets, community energy projects, community enterprise and a proposed key role for communities within the re-provisioning of public services – not to mention the current pilot around participatory budgeting.

This direction is widely backed by many local activists and seasoned campaigners, practitioners and commentators alike. However, while all this could herald further progression in what has been a long journey it does raise the important question about what all this empowerment will look like and how well towns and communities get equipped to be able to fully participate and respond positively to the undoubted new opportunities that will arise.

For communities to be at the heart of the regeneration process and indeed to lead they need the capacity to do so. We need to expand the philosophy behind the current Strengthening Communities programme by investing further, investing directly into our communities and places.

Places need people: to communicate and talk, to get people on board, to lead, co-ordinate, organise, cajole, encourage, plan, prepare budgets, be the glue that binds individuals and groups together and to develop essential links with local councils, agencies and funders.

There can be no doubt that the direction of travel by this government is for more decision making to be taken up by communities. The current policy agenda involves – community-led regeneration, community ownership of assets, community energy projects, community enterprise and a proposed key role for communities within the re-provisioning of public services

This kind of activity is time and labour intensive but an essential first stage on any renewal journey. If we wish a truly democratic input into the regeneration/renewal process we need to create the right conditions that will enable as many people as possible to get involved.

Every community of place is different – different context, challenges, opportunities, resources and demographic. This difference is both part of the problem and the solution.

‘Investing in local community anchor organisations – by growing these to create this local development nexus will enable ordinary people to innovate – invest in their own businesses, their own towns [their own places] This requires a new power to craft and domesticate capital and to educate and r-endow the economic activity of people with productive rather than consumptive capacity’……..Philip Blond, Respublica.

By investing in communities in an appropriate way for each we can then create a new ‘community infrastructure’ across the nation reflecting the various and varied communities of ‘place,’ a necessary requirement if the objectives behind community empowerment, responsibility and community-led regeneration are to be met. This would be an infrastructure of enterprise, of new or expanded development trusts or other community anchor organisations that are engaged with their communities through a deep commitment to that place.

This is all part of developing a new civic and local economy. We need to get the delivery mechanisms in place and fit for purpose. The development and management of assets, within a framework of enterprise, is a critical element of successful community-led regeneration.

As we know this is not easy. It’s messy, full of unknowns but this coalface situation is what faces us if community-led regeneration is to have traction. It’s in communities that the ‘rubber hits the road, where both problems and solutions emerge.’

(2) A ‘Commonty’ is a piece of common land which when divided would be owned by the heritors
land owners of the Parish of Carluke. CDT took title of this piece of land in January 2014

Tom Sneddon
Chairs the Carluke Development Trust

By Tom Sneddon, Chair, Carluke Development Trust

Issue 13

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