Potential Opportunities - Six Local Buildings
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 has strengthened the rights of community groups to take a lead role in managing community facilities.
Council officers have since scoped out potential opportunities for Community Asset Transfer (CAT).
CAT could involve community organisations taking on the management (through a lease arrangement) or ownership of some community facilities. Such a transfer can enable community groups to access funding sources such as the Scottish Land Fund, the Big Lottery and others, to help with the purchase or redevelopment of buildings.
Six potentially suitable buildings have been identified:
- East Linton Council Chamber
- Gullane Recreation Hall
- Macmerry Village Hall
- Prestonpans Town Hall
- Stoneyhill Community Centre, Musselburgh
- Trevelyan Hall, Pencaitland
Community organisations are invited to note an initial expression of interest in getting involved with the running of these facilities by 31 March 2019.
How to express an interest
Each building has an information pack containing property details, photographs, location/site map, running costs, condition of building, etc,.
Complete the form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The council will then evaluate the initial expressions of interest received. On completion of this consultation, a final recommendation will be brought forward seeking approval of the intended future purpose of each asset.
Why is the council looking to 're-purpose' these properties?
East Lothian Council is committed to building community capacity and empowering people to make decisions which affect their area. Our Community Councils, Area Partnerships and other local organisations contribute significantly to delivering local priority agendas.
We are keen to build on this by exploring opportunities for communities to take an enhanced role in the running of some local buildings which are currently owned by the council. There are a number of locations in East Lothian where community facilities and village halls are successfully managed by the local community, such as Fisherrow Community Centre, North Berwick Community Centre, Garvald and Athelstaneford Village Halls.
Giving communities an enhanced role in the management and running of these buildings supports the objective in our Council Plan, 'Growing our Communities', which is about extending community engagement and decision making. It has the potential to make the buildings increasingly successful while enabling the council to make the most efficient use of resources.
It enables us to continue working in partnership with local communities towards realising our vision for an even more prosperous, safe and sustainable East Lothian.
How were these six assets identified?
Our Community Learning and Development Service manages 31 assets. A council project team gathered information on income and expenditure, utilisation, building condition, suitability for purpose, whether the building was listed, any known marketability issues or constraints, nearby facilities and maintenance requirements. This led to the identification of these six assets as our first step towards offering Community Asset Transfer.
What are the different options - e.g. full ownership of the building, formation of a management committee, etc?
Once we have received expressions of interest we will engage with groups to explore the options.
There are also local examples of success such as North Berwick Community Centre, Port Seton Centre and the Fisherrow Centre.
The Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) specialises in this legislation and can explain all of the options, free of charge. They can also provide examples of where Community Asset Transfer has been introduced successfully elsewhere. COSS will be offering training in February 2019.
East Lothian's STRiVE can also provide information and advice.
What are the running costs associated with the buildings and are there any issues groups should be aware of before noting interest?
Current running costs and other details are provided in the information packs. Running costs are, of course, subject to change. For example, local groups may be able to engage volunteers or small businesses to provide cleaning and caretaking functions, which may reduce costs. Increased use of the buildings would impact on energy costs.
What happens if there is no interest in the community taking on a building?
Following the period of community engagement and analysis of expressions of interest, officers will consider the next steps.
If interest has been identified in CAT opportunities at other locations, would the council be supportive?
While this project has identified six specific assets, CAT requests at other locations will still be considered under the same legislation. This would include instances where a local group has approached the council proactively to express interest in taking on an asset.