May 4, 2016
Exchange of learning
Whatever your community is thinking of doing it’s likely that someone somewhere will have tried something similar and is more than happy to tell you all about. You just need to find them. And that what the Community Learning Exchange is all about. Small amounts of funding to send groups to learn from others. Groups have to apply through one of the member networks of SCA and since the Exchange opened in late Autumn 2015, 124 groups have benefited. DTAS recently organised for 8 groups to visit two communities in Northumberland. Here’s what happened.
To see some photographs of the trip click for a storify account of what happened
On Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th of April, a group of intrepid DTA Scotland members crossed the border to Northumberland, as part of a study trip to visit Glendale Gateway Community Trust in Wooler and Amble Development Trust.
The trip brought together 8 DTAS members from the very top right through to the very bottom of Scotland, all of whom are involved in town centre regeneration projects, as well as the Scottish Government and DTAS Development Officers. An opportunity to explore, share learning and most importantly experiences; it is fair to say that our study group was blown away by the achievements and innovation that we witnessed.
Day 1 – Glendale Gateway
Day 1 began with a late lunch at the Breeze Café, which rents a community owned retail unit in Wooler town centre, where Glendale Gateway’s Tom and Gemma met us and talked through the history of the Glendale Gateway Community Trust (GGCT), highlighting the changes that had taken place in the town during the Trust’s 20 years of operation, most notable of which has been the Trust’s ability to take on and transform 3 commercial and 18 residential buildings in and around the town centre – all of which are occupied. On top of this, GGCT also owns and has redeveloped the Cheviot Centre, a former Victorian workhouse which houses the local library, supports local businesses and delivers community services, as well as housing the Trust itself.
As we gasped in admiration and wonder when Tom then took us on a tour of the said assets, there was one question on everyone’s minds… How did you do it? Tom’s answer:
“We’ve always been good at spotting opportunities…”
Well that and a bit of hard work and determination!
Rounding off what had been an awe-inspiring day, we dined that evening at the Trust owned and operated Youth Hostel at the top of the town. An activity which was of particular relevance to DTAS member and trip attendee Sheila from Callendar Community Development Trust as they too run a youth hostel.
Day 2 – Amble Development Trust
On day 2 we made the short journey from our accommodation in Seahouses over to Amble to meet with staff, board members and Julia Aston, the Director of Amble Development Trust
The Trust was formed in 1994 in response to a number of challenges faced by this former mining community. Located off the main trunk roads, Amble has faced a number of issues over the years, including the loss of over 600 jobs from the closure of a local factory.
Amble DT deliver a range of community services from their building at Fourways 2 – a former dancehall – and have undertaken a number of town centre regeneration projects over the years, including turning a disused hotel into a thriving business centre, and owning three fully occupied retail units.
Their newest project – and the highlight of our visit to the town – is Trust’s Harbour Village regeneration project.
Born out of a consultation which explored the feasibility an industrial estate, the Harbour Village project includes 15 small retail pods, located as you would expect, by the harbour, as well as a seafood centre designed to help support the local fishing sector. Still in its infancy, the project has already experienced many major successes, but worth highlighting is the 100% occupancy of the retail pods and subsequent waiting list for space as well as the launch of Creel Fish Club, a fish box delivery scheme available throughout Northumberland.
Julia’s take-home advice to our group:
“Forward planning relevant to place is key…”
Funded through the Scottish Community Alliance’s (SCA) Community Learning Exchange Fund, this study trip created not only a fantastic opportunity for development trusts with similar projects to network and get to know each other, but has also left those who attended motivated and driven to see success in the town centre projects that they are looking to deliver in their own communities.
“Both towns visited were inspiring almost to the point of Wow! The interaction with others on the trip was also very useful. Well done, super trip. Thank you.”