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July 16, 2008

Boost for community assets in Glasgow

Many communities in Glasgow have been thwarted in their attempts to secure funding from the Lottery’s Growing Community Assets programme because of the Council’s reluctance to transfer assets into community ownership. The Council has preferred to offer communities long term leases on property rather than outright ownership. All this is about to change

Big Issue Scotland

Regeneration trusts and building preservation trusts have found it difficult to access National Lottery funding because they don’t have full ownership of the buildings they want to develop. But Glasgow City Council has decided to transfer derelict properties to local groups with a sound business plan in order to unlock millions of pounds worth of grants.
It comes as a major boost to Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, which has been rejected for Big Lottery funding twice because the group didn’t have full ownership of the landmark listed building. The group now hope to begin work before the end of the year in transforming the old Halls into a £9million community events and concert space, nursery, café-restaurant, and recording studio. Trust co-ordinator Hunter Reid told the Big Issue: “It’s very, very good news because it’s absolutely vital we get Big Lottery funding to carry on with the project. It’s very forward-thinking of the council. If you can get support from local people, then groups like ours can be more responsive to what the community are looking for than the council can be.”

Other trusts that want to buy-up buildings currently owned by Glasgow City Council include the those pushing for the refurbishment of Sir John Maxwell School, Elder Park Farmhouse, Dalmarnock Primary School and Govanhill Baths. Nominal sale fees would be returned to each group by the council if they have Big lottery and European regional development Fund grants lined up.

Ann McCleary, of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, welcomed a move that could benefit a number of her own projects across the city. “We have so many fantastic historic buildings in Glasgow that are so important to the fabric of the city. Renovation projects can be pivotal in regenerating whole communities. It’s a lot of responsibility to run something over the long-term, but if there’s a real appetite among a strong community nucleus, this is a great way of accessing funds and getting real local ownership.”

Possil Renewal Ltd, a regeneration charity in North Glasgow looking to maintain their decrepit Ardoch House building, is also set to reap the benefit of the council’s policy change. “We would probably have to shut up shop in a couple of years if it wasn’t for this way of getting lottery money,” said manager John Duncanson. “We create vital jobs and services in the area, so it’s forward thinking of the council to realise we need more direct control.”

Fatima Uygun, director of Govanhill Baths Trust, also supports community transfer as a way of reaching the £8.5m target needed to reopen the Calder Street baths with a café and creche, but warned that the city council must continue to support the running of leisure services once refurbishment was achieved. “We welcome the decision to help give us ownership, but we still see the council as our partners,” she said.

Councillors hope the move will redress the imbalance in Big Lottery funding in Scotland, since Glasgow currently receives less than its proportional share of money (it has received 11% the Big Lottery’s Investing in Communities fund). “We want to help alleviate the tight financial situation that many of these groups find themselves in; releasing vacant properties for local regeneration projects will also bring them back into productive use while empowering local communities to refurbish and develop them to suit their needs,” said councillor George Ryan, head of development of regeneration.