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March 26, 2008

Community on Mull aiming to establish island’s first business resource centre

Four years ago the development trust on Mull purchased a former post office building and some adjacent land. The Trust could see development potential in the site and set about putting a business plan in place that will help them move towards their aim of becoming financially self sufficient


How The Project Started

In 2004 The Mull & Iona Community Trust purchased the former Royal Mail workshop and adjacent, vacant plot next to the ferry terminal at Craignure. Since then the sites have been used by the MESS project to store materials for recycling and/or selling in the ‘Island Castaways’ charity shop and as retail space for ‘Island Castaways’.

Our Plan- ‘One-Stop Shop’ for our 80+ Local Community Groups & Businesses Alike!

The Community Trust plans to develop a multi-functional, community-owned resource centre providing sustainable, good quality, community-based services and facilities and by doing so, create a vibrant hub for all users at the geographical centre of the islands.

The centre will provide more and better quality accommodation and services. This will include a dedicated training and conference facility – currently no such resource exists – plus serviced workspaces and a community resource library for existing and new businesses and community groups. Bringing together these resources and information will help to reduce overhead costs and provide greater benefit to the community. Although community focused, the centre will include a commercial lettings element to establish long-term sustainability, independent of grant funding.

What Will the Centre Provide?

• For flexible hire by businesses, Social Enterprises, charities, community groups and individuals based on and off the islands:
o Offices
o The island’s only dedicated treatment/counselling room
o The island’s only public access training/seminar room & training resources
o An Interview / ‘break out’ room
• A new, larger retail area for the ‘Island Castaways’ charity shop, selling refreshments ‘to go’
• A community resource library
• An office for The Community Trust
• Reception services, fax, photocopying, printing facilities, internet and PC access

Most importantly ALL facilities will be available for hire on a long or short term with a range of flexible options for all clients- everything from hourly hires on a ‘one off’ basis to monthly hires on yearly contracts! Resources and rental agreements will be tailored to meet client’s needs.

The Problems The Centre Will Help to Address

‘The Mull Ward has the third highest level of access deprivation in the whole of Argyll & Bute and therefore one of the highest in Scotland’

(Scottish Centre for Research on Social Justice – Argyll & Bute Deprivation Study 2004)

A number of community-wide consultations have provided details of the wide-ranging problems associated with the remote rural communities of Mull and Iona. These highlighted several significant economic and social restrictions which include:
• Low wage and seasonal employment and a high dependency on tourism-based activities, compounded by the reduction in employment opportunities in the ‘traditional’ primary industries such as fishing and farming.
• Lack of quality services and facilities to help local people to develop their skills base and reach their potential.
• Few quality services and facilities to support local voluntary groups.
• Lack of accessible social, health and information services and facilities located within the local community.
• Lack of access to professional services such as banks, solicitors, accountants etc.
These issues have resulted in significant levels of deprivation on the islands and ultimately the outward migration of the islands’ young people.

The Benefits The Centre Will Provide

The ways in which the various groups will benefit from the centre include:
• The provision of increased employment opportunities (paid and voluntary) for adults and young people with special needs and disabilities and other local people via the charities recycling project.
• Improved access to the Community Trust (which provides a Council for Voluntary Services role for Mull and Iona) and The Argyll and Bute Volunteer Centre: the current listed accommodation used by these groups in the far north of the island is inadequate, overcrowded and not easily accessible to people living in other areas of the islands and is not compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act
• Local community members and businesses through the provision of a counselling and complimentary therapies room at the centre.
• By hosting meetings and encouraging businesses from the mainland and residents from other parts of the island to utilise the centre there will be secondary spend in the local stores, restaurants and for accommodation providers therefore the centre will increase the diversity of the economic activity in the area.
• Longer term, the centre will support Argyll and Bute Council, Argyll College and Argyll and the Islands Enterprise strategies for training and employment by increasing on-island training opportunities and enhancing the local skills-base.
• Voluntary and other community groups and individuals will have better access to services through the provision of an efficient and accessible resource library.
• Small, locally based businesses will have access to high quality accommodation for rent with up-to-date communications technology and training room facilities.
• All community members will benefit by having greater access to professional advice and services from the public and private sectors. Less time and money will be spent travelling to the mainland enabling professionals to spend a day on Mull in a meeting room, hosting client surgeries rather than having to travel all over the island
• A proportion of the increased income generated from rentals and surpluses from our on-site charity shop “Island Castaways” will be distributed to other voluntary organisations and will help establish new social enterprise activities on the islands.

Following the completion of the feasibility and market research study the the building design has now been updated in response to all the feedback received. (To view the final feasibility study report including details of the market research results click here )

The submission of the planning application brings the Community Trusts vision of a multifunctional business centre at Craignure a step closer. To view the plans click here.

Siân Scott, Project Officer also announced that several major funding bids have also been submitted so fingers are crossed.

If all goes ahead and building work begins at the beginning of 2009 businesses and community groups will have access to the new centre from early 2010.

For more information or to register an interest in renting regular space please contract the Project Officer, Siân Scott on Tel: 01688 302851 Phone/Fax : 01688 302990 Email :