September 10, 2008
Argyll and Bute Council see value in asset transfer
The transfer of assets to communities at less than market value is complicated and one that requires councils to have a deep understanding of the process and of the benefits that be achieved. Argyll and Bute Council are fast acquiring a reputation for their innovative approach to empowering local communities
Argyll and Bute Council appreciate the value of asset transfer
Two case studies:
The Kilmory Home Farm Community Project (KHFCP) has ambitious plans for the restoration of the Kilmory Home Farm (described in a council report as “an ignored heritage asset”) on the historic Kilmory Estate.
The group has welcomed support from Argyll and Bute councillors at a meeting of the Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands (MAKI) area committee last week. Councillors voted to recommend to Argyll and Bute Council’s executive that the property is transferred at low or no cost to the project group. With proposals centred around the themes of leisure, the arts and the environment, KHFCP hopes to create a courtyard cafe bar and restaurant, a community farm and shop, and an arts venue incorporating gallery/studio/theatre space in the former farm complex when restored. Other plans include play facilities, nature walks and trails and green energy production.
The project is run entirely by community volunteers, although since 2006 it has developed partnerships with Forestry Commission Scotland, the GRAB Trust, ALIEnergy and other Argyll-based companies and organisations. Strathclyde Buildings Preservation Trust (SBPT), which has also been involved recently with the Dunoon Burgh Hall Project, has been working on an options appraisal to examine the future of the venture. This recommends that KHFCP offers the best long-term opportunity for the restoration of the buildings. The options appraisal report has indicated that the cost of refurbishing and regenerating the building will be around £3.5 million, with a variety of funding options available. Members of the MAKI area committee have now agreed to give the project, in partnership with SBPT, 18 months to secure funding for the repair and development of the buildings.
KHFCP will provide regular progress updates to the council throughout the development phase, and has also been asked it to produce a detailed and robust business plan showing how the group will cover long term revenue costs. The next step for the project partners will be the consideration and completion of funding applications. After hearing of the area committee’s decision, the group’s vice-chair, Chirsty Hamilton, said: “We are all delighted that our hard work has paid off. “It is an ambitious proposal but we are hoping to be able to provide as many elements as we can.” Sarah MacKinnon of SBPT said: “This is a very exciting project and I am pleased to be involved, working in partnership with the project group and the council. The next few months will see a lot of hard work to develop it further.” The Home Farm buildings do require urgent remedial works to stop further deterioration, and it is understood that Argyll and Bute Council is currently investigating opportunities to carry out the same. Further information about the Kilmory Home Farm plans can be found at www.kilmoryhomefarm.org
In another example of Argyll and Bute Council’s groundbreaking approach to asset transfer, Arrochar & Tarbet Community Development Trust report that the Council has been incredibly supportive of them overall, and cite an example where the Council has transferred to them £305,000 received from sale of the former outdoor education centre site as a contribution to the capital costs of the planned new community campus. The Council has also provided a further £50,000 grant funding. A&TCDT now have all the funding they require in place (c. £1.2 million) for both the capital costs of the new building and three years revenue costs (which will pay for a Campus Manager who will be responsible for making the campus self-sustaining). Strathclyde Passenger Transport and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority are investigating the potential for a new pontoon style pier on Loch Fyne adjacent to the site, which should ensure a ready market for the Trust’s existing Pit Stop Dinner café. A&TCDT hope to re-furbish their Pit Stop café and build a new toilet block adjacent to this that will be open to the public.