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September 23, 2009

Council approach is spot on

With cuts in public spending just around the corner, it’s possible that Councils will be giving some thought as to how they might develop a more productive relationship with the community sector.  Scottish Borders Council have been doing some great work recently with Newlands Community Development Trust which is going to result in a win-win for everyone

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) has agreed to transfer ownership of an area of land adjacent to Newlands Primary school at Romanno Bridge to the local Community Development Group and agree access arrangements which will enable Newlands Community Development Trust (NCDT) to build community facilities at the site.  SBC have also agreed to rent areas of this proposed new building from NCDT, producing a sustainable, integrated, innovative approach to rural services which will result in improved facilities for use by the school and for the dispersed rural communities of Newlands, Lamancha and Kirkurd,

In spring 2008 NCDT received £999,363 from BIG Lottery fund and in January 2009 was awarded £858,000 under the Scottish Rural Development Priorities Scheme to create a much needed community facility in Romanno Bridge.  This latest agreement from SBC will allow the planning and building phase of this project, which has an estimated total project cost of £1.9 Million, to finally begin.  At its meeting today, SBC also agreed funding to refurbish the existing school allowing full integration with the new community building. This joint project, led by NCDT building the new community facility in partnership with SBC, who will refurbish the existing Newlands School, will provide benefits to both partners from economies of scale and improved management.  The project will also provide future savings and environmental benefits arising from the central location of the building within the community, improved energy efficiency of the refurbished school and removal of the inefficient temporary classroom.  The community facility has been designed to meet local needs and to allow community groups and local enterprise to flourish. 

Karen Blissitt Chairman of Newlands Community Development Trust said, “This is a major step forward for this project.  The transfer of ownership of the proposed site to Newlands Community Development Trust is necessary for us to maintain our funding from Big Lottery and will allow the planning and building phase of our community facility to begin.  This decision clearly demonstrates Scottish Borders Council’s commitment to the project, we are grateful for their support and look forward to working in partnership in the future.  I am also delighted with the agreement by SBC to refurbish Newlands Primary school at this stage as this will allow full integration of the School with the new community building and will maximise the financial and environmental benefits of this integrated facility”.
The Secretary of Newlands Community Development Trust, John Currie said he was “Delighted that the council have agreed to fully support this project. There is still much work to be done and hurdles to get over but working in partnership with SBC and our funders we will produce a facility and school that the community will be proud of”.

“We are all delighted that the hard work of the Trust has been recognised and supported. We are very much looking forward to seeing the benefits of this work and are very pleased that our school, which at one time was under threat, is being refurbished alongside the new facilities. The Community Development Trust has already sought ideas from pupils and, our eco-committee in particular, are eager to be involved in the planning for energy efficiency and school ground. This is a great example of partnership working between the Trust and SBC and everyone at Newlands is relishing the prospect of being part of it” said Maureen Sharp, Headmistress of Newlands Primary School.

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 facility 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.