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June 18, 2008

Newlands community to build their hub

A scattered rural community strung out along the A701 south of Edinburgh has witnessed a steady decline in its facilities in recent years. Local people commonly have had to travel a minimum of 10 miles to access the sort of facilities most communities take for granted. A major injection of Lottery cash has meant their plans to for a new-build community hub are close to realisation


A rural community in the Scottish Borders is set to benefit from a major lottery windfall announced today by Big Lottery Fund. Newlands Community Development Trust (NCDT) has been successful in its bid for £999,363 – the largest amount awarded to a single project in the region through BIG’s Investing in Communities fund. The grant will be used to create a much needed community facility in Romanno Bridge.

The new building, which will be attached to Newlands Primary School, will be a standalone operation owned and run by NCDT for the benefit of the whole community. Located in the geographic centre of the area, the hub will provide a focal point for local people, comprising a large sports hall, a fully equipped kitchen with dining areas, a dedicated nursery and playgroup, plus adult learning, IT and library facilities.

The diverse rural community, which incorporates a string of villages along the A701, including Blyth Bridge, Romanno Bridge, Mountain Cross and Lamancha, together with farms and smaller settlements, has witnessed a steady decline in its facilities in recent years and is working to reverse this trend by developing new assets. The community lacks sporting facilities and a hall large enough to hold its major events while also providing the flexibility to support a full range of activities for both old and young. At present, members of the community commonly need to travel ten miles to reach such facilities. One in four people served by the new hub will be in walking distance of it.

“This is a fabulous boost for the community,” said Karen Blissitt, chairman of the NCDT. “The hub will provide a much needed local facility which will strengthen the community and help bring everyone together. Until now we have had to go to Broughton to hold concerts and we have to go to Peebles, Penicuik or Biggar for sporting facilities, so this really will make a huge difference to local people. Isolation in rural communities is a real problem and this will make it easier for people to get involved in local activities and get to know each other.”

Jamie Prady, one of the directors of the trust, added: “You so often hear of the demise of rural community facilities; it’s exciting to see a community pulling together and creating new opportunities.”

Maureen Sharp, Headmistress of Newlands Primary School is also delighted with the success of the NCDT application to Big Lottery Fund, “The members of the trust have worked very hard to ensure that our lively and vibrant community has a great, and much needed, community facility. This facility will, like our school, be at the heart of the community.”

The use of the facility by the school, which will rent the hall for various needs, will provide a source of revenue to help NCDT ensure long term viability of the project.

NCDT was formed in June 2007 to benefit the communities of Newlands, Lamancha and Kirkurd in Peeblesshire, in the Scottish Borders. NCDT gained charitable status in April 2008. The grant from Big Lottery Fund will meet approximately half of the total project cost of the new facility at Newlands, estimated at £1.9 Million. NCDT will now work towards securing the rest of the funding. SBC is fully supportive of this project.