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April 4, 2012

A puzzling reluctance

Negotiating with a local council over the transfer of a community asset can be a slow and frustrating process. But when the asset in question is a community centre, 150 years old and in a seriously dilapidated state, and when the community have already raised £300,000 towards its refurbishment, it’s hard not to view this in the no-brainer category. Not so for Stirling Council apparently


Residents in Gargunnock are celebrating after Stirling Council transferred ownership of the 150 year old community centre to community ownership after a 5 year campaign.

Last Friday, March 16, Community representatives were invited to sign the title deeds and receive the ‘official seal’ of ownership paving the way for a £300,000 refurbishment programme to get underway.

The campaign for community ownership started 5 years ago when the newly formed Gargunnock Community Trust got wind of plans by the council to sell the community centre and its surrounding land for private housing.

Appalled by the fact that the village might lose its community centre the Community Trust set out on an ambitious campaign to both secure ownership of the building and raise funds to refurbish it so that it better suited the needs of the community. 

Despite several setbacks on the way regarding funding and legal issues around the transfer of ownership, the Trust has raised almost £300,000 towards the refurbishment of the centre. But the funding all hinged on the transfer of ownership being approved by the council, without it the plans to develop the centre would all come to nothing. Having finally secured agreement from the council in June of last year to a transfer it was only last week that the legal documents were finalised and made available for signing. 

Douglas Johnston, Trust Director, said of the transfer, “This is just the end of the beginning. Getting ownership of our centre is tremendous but the real work starts now. With funding secured to refurbish the centre we need to get on with it. Owning the building was only a step in realising our real ambition for our community which is to have a facility fit for our community needs for the next 50 years. Having that happen will be the really exciting bit.”

Douglas Coupethwaite, also a Trust Director and chair of the community council, added, “This is a great moment for Gargunnock, we have managed to convince the council that we have a viable plan for better community facilities. A big thanks go to all those involved and to the village residents who never gave up hope and when asked dug deep to help raise the funding required to secure the future of the centre”