A Big Choice to Make
The headline news this edition is our failure to secure a Big Lottery grant. This is a serious blow to our plans for the Community Hub and will have a knock-on effect for all our other projects. Before considering how we deal with this set-back, we should first face up to a harsh truth. The following summary, including feedback from the Big Lottery, tells the story :
The Big Lottery received 3248 applications for funding. From these, 48 projects were chosen to receive a site visit from lottery fund managers. Our visit was in November 2017 when Charles, Ed, Victoria and all SCD directors met with the lottery fund panel in Strathdearn Hall and explained our plans in great detail. Following this, ours was one of 10 projects invited to apply for the final funding stage. A huge amount of work went into expanding and developing our application. Big Lottery paid for exploratory excavations on the site and a quantity surveyor to scrutinise our plans. The Lottery panel met on the 21st September and of the 10 applications, 4 were funded and 6 and were declined. The reason the Lottery panel gave for turning us down was that the Strathdearn community were better resourced going forward than any other applicant, taking into consideration the funds available to the community at the time of application.
So our failure wasn't for the lack of a well planned project which filled an urgent need in our community, nor for the lack of an excellent application. We were turned down because in these times of austerity, we had too much money in the bank. That's the lesson we have to face up to - before we can realistically expect outside help to improve our community, we first have to spend what we've got. There are grants available even in these straitened times, but until we put our own money where our mouth is, we will always be seen as rich beggars.
Of course the silver lining, literally, is that we do have money in the bank. We are lucky enough to have a healthy account balance and a regular income from the windfarms, and of course we planned for an eventuality without a Big Lottery grant. So yes, if we scale back a little, we can have our new hall, cafe and shop and we can continue to improve daily life in Strathdearn, but we will have to dig into our own pockets to do it.
By spending wisely now, we can leverage funds in the future. Once we have used our own money to provide lasting benefits for our community, we can then approach funding sources and say "Look what we've achieved on our own, we can do so much more if you help us." We will be attractive to grant bodies because we can demonstrate that we won't waste their money, and because we will need their help rather than just want it.
Applying for a Lottery grant was a process we had to go through. The potential reward, £1 million, was too big to turn our back on, but it cost us more than a year. We have plenty to show for that time - a comprehensive documentation of our community's situation and needs, past present and future, which will form the basis of our negotiations with the outside world for a long time to come; we got thousands of pounds from Big Lottery to research our plans and site which we would otherwise have had to pay for ourselves; much of our architectural planning will be revised and implemented - but the fact remains that we'd be closer to completing the Hub if we'd gone it alone. So let's learn this lesson too - by taking matters into our own hands we can achieve our much needed goals that much sooner.
This is the community's future we're talking about. It's too big a decision for SCD to make on its own - the whole community has to decide how we use our windfarm windfall. It will be contentious. Some will want to keep the money safe for a rainy day while some will prefer to make hay while the sun shines. Some of our funds are in SCD accounts and some in the Charitable Trust's.
The intention of this article is to raise awareness, concentrate minds, initiate a debate, and prepare the ground for this very important decision. There is no advantage in long delay. SCD will plan how best to ensure full, well-informed participation in this choice. If you have any suggestions in this regard, please use the contact addresses available elsewhere in this bulletin. If you have strong feelings one way or the other and would like assistance to publicise your opinion, SCD would be happy to help. Just get in touch.
OK, that's it. Go forth and argue.
Tomatin Community Shop
Lee-Anne has been working without a day off for quite some time. We've had no success with our search for paid staff locally so Mhairi has posted adverts on Carrbridge and Strathnairn Facebook pages. Do you know anyone who might be interested?
We are also seeking volunteers to take a turn behind the counter. If you can spare a few hours now and again, you will give Lee-Anne and Mags a well-earned break, catch up with the local craic, and help make the shop more profitable. If we can't get more help one way or another, there is a real possibility that we will have to reduce shop opening hours. Please contact Lee-Anne if you can help.
Here's another way to support the shop : buy a strong re-usable cotton shopping bag, custom made with a competition-winning design by Primary 1 pupil Laila Brunton, and the message "I support Tomatin Community Shop." What a great Christmas present for friends and family who've moved away.
Finally, how's this for good timing with winter just round the corner? The shop now stocks firewood, kindling and coal supplied by Tomatin Firewood.
The Moy section of this project is nearing fruition. Openreach engineers have installed the main fibre cable through the area and are now connecting individual premises to it. Any day now the the first groups of premises will be given the go ahead to ask Zen or BT to supply them with superfast broadband. A handy guide to this process can be found on the front page of the Community website.
We continue to work with Openreach to explore broadband options for households around Clune and up to Glenmazeran and beyond. The wilder terrain and longer distances between premises make this a more challenging project. We have some ballpark figures which give us an idea of the scale of the task. It will be difficult to achieve but not impossible if we can bring together contributions from all the potential sources we are aware of, including landowners, SCD, the Trust, Openreach, Highland Council and others. We hope to have firm figures soon.
Section 8 of the Paths Project is still on hold due to onerous conditions imposed by Highland Council. While the Planning Dept supports our plans, the Roads Dept insist the path must incorporate drainage capable of withstanding Biblical floods at an estimated cost of £132,000. This is eight times our original estimate and plainly unjustifiable for our community. We were considering some fairly drastic options to break the logjam but meetings with Councillor Ken Gowans have offered a glimmer of hope. He has offered to seek additional funding through Safer Route Scotland and other council funds in an attempt to bridge the gap between our resources and the Council's demands. We will therefore dig deep into our reserves of patience and await developments ..... again!
SCD Annual General Meeting on 27th September
At last year's AGM, we had to put out more seating to cope with the capacity crowd, so for this year's AGM we filled every available space and only a quarter as many turned up. You're just toying with us, aren't you! We had an interesting and informative meeting nonetheless, and those stalwarts who did attend more than made up for the absentees with useful suggestions and knowledgeable questions.
Chairman Richard Cooling summarised our progress and achievements over the last year and the challenges ahead. The Company accounts for the past 2 years were ratified and various amendments to the articles of association were voted through, with one amendment being deferred. The recent news that we hadn't won a Big Lottery grant loomed large, and Richard and Duncan Bryden explored the implications for our ongoing plans.
Some of the points raised from the floor were : a new hall should be our top priority, over and above plans to incorporate a cafe and shop; without Lottery funding, we should develop the hall site in stages as finance becomes available; the pot holes in Station Road rendered that stage of the path to the North end of Tomatin impractical for pushchairs; that the community should be given the opportunity to participate in the many design choices in and around the new Hub.
The current membership status of SCD ltd is 150 ordinary members 12 associate members and 7 junior members.
The next SCD meeting is on 12th December in Strathdearn Hall at 7.30pm.
SCD Membership forms are available from the Company Secretary, Strathdearn Hall, IV13 7YN, or you can apply online through the community website : www.strathdearn.org.
Membership entitles you to attend our meetings, stand for election as a company director, vote in elections, and receive special updates.