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July 11, 2012

It shouldn’t be this hard

It’s well understood that communities and local councils are going to have to collaborate much more closely in the coming years in order to safeguard a whole range of local services – in particular social and recreational facilities.  No one expects this journey to be without bumps and so it will be important that all sides learn from experience gained along the way.  This email from a frustrated activist gives some insight into the amount of learning that needs to happen. And quickly.



Email from a community activist in Beith, North Ayrshire to Lesley Riddoch, journalist  

Hi Lesley

We are a load of football teams, sports clubs and normal folk who just got so fed up with derelict sports facilities in our village that we worked and nagged for 3 years to take them over, we reckoned we couldn’t make a worse job than the KA Leisure, North Ayrshire’s leisure trust

In the spirit of partnership we agreed to invest 85k of in-kind works and the local authority  invested 250k  prior to a lease of the facility to the community ( a Big No to ownership).  They then used all our participation figures to apply for a Sports Scotland grant of £100k which eased the pressure on their required contribution

The Leisure Trust moved out, the works were completed in January to create a new synthetic pitch, and since then the community development trust  have been successful in grant funding bids of 130k from Climate Challenge Fund a further £25K from Community Energy Scotland and £20k from assorted extras  ( add this to the original £85k and you will quickly work out who has brought in the most money to the partnership)

Despite countless meetings with the local authority 6 months later there is still no sign of a lease, no one is running the facility, we are effectively squatting there, they have reduced the lease term from 50 years to 25 years and have imposed conditions upon us that their own subsidised leisure company didn’t have, I could go on and on!!

We are close to Linwood Development Trust too, hundreds of members, a community plan in place, a consultation exercise which spoke to over 3000 people and the council officer in charge of property told them their plans for the future were ‘simply aspirations ’

All the chat about community control etc, hmmmmm, we are exhausted with the process, business plans no one reads, working full time, attending endless meetings, community engagement, we were even expected to pay for the council project manager to manage the works on the facility – so the community pay the council to do the work on a community facility which they are actually paid to do through our taxes


Rant over

Community activist from Beith 

Names of individuals have been removed