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February 13, 2013

Worth the wait

Anyone who believes that the process of transforming an old, redundant building into a much valued community asset is anything other than a long, hard slog, might benefit from a visit to the remote community of Eskdalemuir.  It is six years since Dumfries and Galloway Council transferred ownership of a former school building to the community and only now is refurbishment work about to start – thanks in part to the Lottery for demonstrating that there’s no bar to the smallest of communities bagging the biggest of grants.


A MILLION pound boost has been given to the Eskdalemuir area for much-needed community building, named a hub.

The Upper Eskdale Development Group will put the heart back into the village thanks to a grant of £1,145,251 from the Big Lottery Fund.

The money will be used to build a two-storey extension to the former Victorian school building which will house workspaces, offices, an art room, shop, cafe, bakery and a flexible community space.

Project development officer Nick Jennings was delighted to receive the Big Lottery Fund award.

He said: “We see it as a huge boost to our confidence in our plans to encourage each other in our community to come together to tackle some of the big challenges that face small rural communities like ours in this time of change.

“We hope that our community hub will be like a well at the centre of our community that endures, never drying to dust, never overflowing but serving all of us for generations to come.

“It will serve as a place to meet socially and creatively, a place where we can develop the kinds of support that our rapidly ageing population is going to increasingly need.”

He also hopes it will generate new ways for younger people in the village to earn a living.

The process of planning and consulting has strengthened the community by bringing people of different ages and backgrounds together.

Mr Jennings said: “There are exciting and challenging opportunities opening before us in 2013 and for many years to come thanks to the Big Lottery Fund and our community volunteers.”

Big Lottery Fund Scotland chairwoman Maureen McGinn is looking forward to seeing the hub complete and in use by the community.

She said: “This project will strike at the very heart of this community, helping to inject new life into the village and surrounding area, benefiting people of all ages and circumstances.”

Councillor Archie Dryburgh for Annandale East and Eskdale has long been a supporter of the project.

He said: “I am proud to have watched it grow from the day I handed the keys of Eskdalemuir School over to the Upper Eskdale Development Group back it 2007 – to it now planning a two storey extension.

“The work of everyone involved is inspiring and a credit to our community.”