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January 14, 2009

Eviction notice hangs over community trust

A community group in Cumbernauld is at loggerheads with North Lanarkshire Council over the future of a building that they have occupied for the past three years. The Council want to sell the building to a third party and seem resolved to ignore the community’s plea to transfer it to them

ITS vision is much more than a handful of meeting rooms for local people.

The Kyle Citizens Community Trust has been working with the Big Lottery Fund to fulfil a dream of developing a “community hub” owned and managed by residents in the area.

Now, however, the charity is being evicted by North Lanarkshire Council from the building that it wants to acquire to benefit the COmlIiunity and provide space for a new range of social enterprises.

The Kyle Road Day Centre at KiIdrum, Cumbemauld, has, for years, been used by a variety of interests such as seniors groups, mothers and toddlers, and tenants and residents’ representatives.

Ten groups operate in the facility where belly dancing, yoga, dance, gardening and a book exchange are among other activities.

The trust was recently told in a letter from the council that it had 15 days to remove its equipment and belongings.

The council, which until recently ran some of its own services from the building said it was no longer in a position to staff the premises or process let requests.

“For this reason it would be our intention to provide janitorial cover until Thurs- day December 12,2008 at 4pm,” it said. “The services to the building will also be disconnected at this date.”

The trust was angered because it said the council had given earlier assurances that it would be able to remain in the building after the local authority evacuated.

The council has now granted a short term lease until the end of March.

That cut no ice, however, with Rose Bowie, chair of the trust, who said the local community had been waiting 50 years for the ambitious facility the charity envisaged.

She told Tf’N: “It’s just a stay of execution and it’ll be our heads that roll. The council doesn’t want to serve the community.

“Not only is our groups’ treatment by North Lanarkshire Council disrespectful but in one fell swoop they have robbed us of our vision for the future, halted our activities and our focus.”

Bowie said that the trust had “jumped through hoops” to assure the local authority that it had everything right in its application to take over the running of the building. “KCCT bent over backwards and did everything they were told, all to prove their worth. The trust rose to every challenge set in very restrictive time frames by the council.”

Bowie, a member of the Cumbernauld Community Forum, said the trust had been forced to spend £500 on insurance in August after being informed it was needed in order to sign an agreement to operate out of the building.

“Nothing came of that,” she added. In a statement to TFN the council said it had now agreed to allow a short-term lease arrangement with groups using the centre taking over the responsibility for its running costs and becoming keyholders.

It said that the groups had been offered alternative accommodation in discussions with them over the past two years.

Bowie refuted that claim and said that the “stay of execution” had, to an extent, exacerbated the situation.

She said the local authority had now given the trust a “ridiculous” time limit-the end of January -to raise more than £122,000 to buy the building.

She added: “For 45 years or so this building has been rent-free to groups but now they are wanting a rent to cover the heating, utilities and security.

“It’s alarming. We are having to pay for our stay of execution.” She said that the trust had been miling good progress with the full application to the Big Lottery for funding to re-build the day centre.