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January 26, 2011

Pub is community hub

In remote communities, the local pub often plays a vital role in community life. In Colintraive, the hotel had been closed for 18 months and with no sign from the owners that the situation was likely to change, the local development trust decided to act. Step one: a successful registration of the community’s right to buy under the Land Reform legislation.  Step two: devise a sustainable business plan. Looks like this community has one

In more proof of the growing independence of Argyll’s communities, the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust has sought and been granted the right to buy the Glendaruel Hotel under the terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

The hotel, standing at the centre of the clachan of Glendaruel has been closed for 18 months, depriving the community of an essential social hub and leaving accommodation providers in the area without a local venue for their guests to find food and drink congenially to hand.

Back in June 2009 when it first considered applying for the right to buy on the property, the trust undertook to give the present owners of the hotel some breathing space to get their business up and running.

Twelve months later the Trust recognised that this was becoming more and more unlikely to happen and that the community needed the opportunity to take charge of the building and provide for its own future. This resolve is becoming increasingly apparent as communities grasp the fact that the competence and the will for community regeneration arises most effectively from communities themselves.

At a public meeting on 3rd August 2010, a working group was formed to look at the options for running the building as a social enterprise with the aim of seeking the Community Right to Buy. And now they’re there.

This right to buy, which gives the community first refusal when and if the hotel comes on to the market, also requires that a ballot be held to ascertain the community’s opinion of such a course of action.

Charles Dixon-Spain, chair of the ‘ColGlen ‘Development Trust, says: ‘With the help of the working group who have put substantial time into this project and our HIE-funded consultant, Tom Sillar, we have secured the community the opportunity to decide whether it wants the trust to run the building as a social enterprise’.

It is fair to say the the community of Glendaruel and Colintraive are energetically and inventively on the move.

The Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust has also applied for the right to buy Stronafian Forest, a 600 hectare area of forest above the hamlet of Stronafian, and on which they are hoping to receive a determination by the end of the month.

The Trust is funded by the Cruach Mhor Windfarm Trust, Argyll and the Islands Leader, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Community Energy Scotland, and Forestry Commission Scotland.

It will have money to raise to buy both of these properties when the moments arise – but with this sort of strategic ambition, who would bet against them making a success it of it.

Charles Dixon-Spain sees the Trust’s vision of the sustainability of the community as threefold and with these two potential acquisitions representing the thrust of the strategy.

The community needs a warm heart for itself and it visitors – enter a welcoming hotel.

It needs to earn regular and guaranteed income to support its growth and sustainability – enter the Stronafian Forest acquisition, which will be a thoroughgoing commercial enterprise.

It needs to join forces with other enterprises in the area – to achieve strength in numbers in securing the overall economic vitality of the area – with relationships between three very different community owned forests now a lively and exciting possibility.

The Bute Community Land Company saw through to completion a determined effort to buy part of the Rhubodach Forest for the community. This will be developed as a strong draw for visitors  with outdoor activity interests to come to the north end of this lovely Clyde island. The north of Bute is minutes away across one of the shortest of Scotland;’s ferry crossings from  – Colintraive.

The Kilfinan area community in Cowal, a few miles south and west of Glendaruel, was the first in Argyll to complete its purchase of a forest to contribute to community sustainability.

The Kilfinan Community Forest has a distinct identity. It is focused on making the forest a working extension of the existing community, with woodland crofts and a variety of forest enterprises. It has already set the bar for achievement in this field and is a very exciting addition to Argyll’s self-generated rural sustainability initiatives.

The possibility of a relationship between these three community forests, each with a distinctive character and community function, is potentially a powerful advantage for this area of south Cowal and North Bute with the breathtaking Kyles of Bute between them.