Since the last newsletter, we've held our AGM, hosted an open meeting, taken over the shop, employed two more people, and made progress on all our projects.
The Strathdearn Carers project has been running for over a year now and is a great success. SCD contributed the initial start-up costs but it is now self-supporting, receiving funds through the NHS Direct Payments scheme. As well as benefiting an increasing number of residents who receive care in their own homes, the scheme provides seven jobs for locals who have been trained up as Carers. The Medical Group led by Liz Campbell with Lead SCD Director Frank Roden, hopes to soon have funding for a defibrillator unit which will further contribute to the health and safety of Strathdearn residents, and is looking into the possibility of setting up a local Home Help scheme.
The Path Project has temporarily been put on hold. Repeated changes of personnel within the roads planning department have frustrated our attempts to get the necessary permissions to finish the section at the north end or start the other sections. It seems planners are like artists - each one sees the world in a unique way. However, undaunted by the red tape and encouraged by the number of people already using the existing stretch of path, Lead Director Duncan Bryden has made our local Councillors aware of the situation and we have high hopes the logjam will soon be broken.
In response to the recent hall user group consultations, the architect firm MAKAR Ltd supplied SCD with a finalised draft of the proposed new hall and the wider hall development plans. In June we held an open meeting in the village hall to share these developments with the community. There was a display comprising maps, architectural plans, artistic sketches and a beautifully constructed scale model of the proposed building. Makar and the SCD Board were in attendance to answer questions. Opinions ranged strongly both for and against different aspects of the development plans but it is fair to say that the majority were in favour.
Makar will make further adjustments to the plans based on the feedback they have received at that meeting and since, and then submit a Planning Application. There are still some unresolved issues regarding internal layout which will be decided after further consultation. The board have also decided to employ a quantity surveyor to scrutinise the plans and give us independent and detailed costings for the whole build.
On Friday 8th July, SCD took over the management of Tomatin Country Store. If the transition was so smooth that you didn't notice the difference, you have Charles Morgan and his team to thank. A staggering amount of paperwork and organisation in the preceding weeks, culminating in a marathon stock-taking exercise and a pitched battle with BT, ensured the uninterrupted supply of your daily pint of milk. Thank you Charles, Ed, Fiona, and of course Lee-Anne Cornwall who now manages the shop. Thanks also to Tanya and George Macleod for keeping the shop going since Mrs MacKay retired, for generously gifting the fixtures and fittings and for allowing SCD to use the building rent-free for 18 months.
Now it's up to us. The shop will be run for the benefit of the community, not to make a profit. Its success will depend on how much we use it. The bigger the turnover, the lower we can keep the prices and the more stock we can carry. A shop is a precious community resource. Don't take it for granted. Nurture it, be proud of it ... and remember, it's OUR shop so the more we spend, the richer we get!
In May, SCD obtained a grant from the Scottish Government's 'Strengthening Communities Programme' to employ two people for 20 hours a week for one year. We lost no time in advertising the vacancies and so I am delighted to welcome two valuable additions to our company. Victoria Cameron-Mackintosh will be administrator for the development company while Fiona Fraser will work for White River Trading Ltd, a new company we have created to deal with commercial operations. At this very busy time for SCD, their help was sorely needed so they were immediately thrown in at the deep end and hit the ground running (if I may mix my metaphors). We reported back to 'Strengthening Communities Programme' with news of how we are spending their money and they demonstrated their approval by offering a strong indication that the grant will be renewed for a further year.
It was nice to see a good turnout at our second AGM on 14th July. Thank you for coming. After dealing with finances and procedural matters, Chairman Richard Cooling gave a progress report on all our projects followed by Duncan Bryden who spoke in detail about the paths project and the new community hub. An election had been included in the agenda but nobody else stood so yours truly was re-elected without opposition. In the middle there was a break for refreshments, and the evening ended with the usual vigorous question and answer session. No deaths or serious injuries resulted so we're counting that as a successful AGM.
Congratulations to Helen Garmston and Andy on the safe arrival on 5th July of baby Emily. Helen is too busy to write the SCD progress report for this issue but we hope it won't be too long before she is once again pounding the keys on our behalf.
Steve Cormack (Director)