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April 20, 2011

Catrine hits the jackpot

The local development trust in the former mill town of Catrine just can’t stop pinching themselves. Some serious concerns were being raised that they’d over-extended themselves by taking on too many hugely ambitious projects all at the same time.  But just when it looked like funding bids for some of the major elements of their plans would fall through, the cash came flooding in

Catrine Community Trust are reeling after a sensational couple of weeks when they have received the well deserved recognition of an East Ayrshire Community Planning Award and a total of over £2.0m in three separate funding awards. Firstly, East Ayrshire Council granted the Trust £170,000 towards the balance of the purchase of the former St. Joseph’s Chapel and priest house, enabling the purchase to go ahead in the nick of time under the “Community Right to Buy” legislation. Then Rural Priorities granted a staggering £1,849, 207 towards conservation works to save Catrine Weir and to fund part of the conversion of St. Joseph’s to a community education and visitor interpretation centre. Finally the Climate Challenge Fund granted £50,218 towards the Trust’s Green Grow Catrine Powerdown project.

Chair, George Smith, was full of praise for the assistance given by East Ayrshire Council Restoring Communities staff and said “This is a great example of the partnership working which can show great benefits to the community if people and organisations just co-operate and pull together”

The money arrived like the cavalry just in the nick of time at a make or break point in the Trust’s history. Established as the Catrine Voes Trust in 1994, in 2005 the Trust was reborn as Catrine Community Trust and rejuvenated by an influx of new Directors after the Voes Trust had run out of steam. But six years on a project that was not so much too big to fail but seemed too big and complex to succeed was on the brink of collapse as the pieces of the jigsaw frustratingly continued to elude each other. But when it all came together over the last fortnight it proved that some miracles are not heaven sent but manmade and the hard work of the Trusts’ members, directors, employees and associates along with the sterling support of East Ayrshire Council was recognised at the recent East Ayrshire Community Planning Awards when CCT won the regeneration equivalent of an Oscar.

Linda Pirrie, Vice Chair, commented that “This is a wonderful reward for the dedicated Directors and staff of the Trust after long planning hours, hard work redrafting applications and frustratingly slow progress with funding”.

It will now be full steam ahead for the Trust as it makes its final push for the last of the funding it needs in a Stage 2 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund this summer. The Trust secured a Stage 1 Pass in August 2009 for £650,000 and was awarded £90,000 to develop its plans to Stage 2. If this final tranche of money can be secured Catrine will become a hive of regeneration activity in 2012.

The 1950 hydroelectric scheme will be brought back into operation for community benefit to provide an income stream thanks to a BIG Lottery “Growing Community Assets” award of £434,000 secured last year, St. Joseph’s will be transformed into a visitor education and interpretation centre, and the Catrine Weir will finally receive long-needed conservation works to stabilise it. This will help to begin to achieve the Trust’s long-term aims – to conserve Catrine’s industrial archaeology heritage for future generations to enjoy, save the Voes which are enjoyed by all who visit them, raise awareness of Catrine’s historic importance, attract visitors and contribute to local employment. Water power, the renewable energy that created Catrine as an 18th century mill town will now kickstart the economic regeneration of 21st century Catrine.