More funding for Ardchattan community ownership bid

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A project seeking community ownership of Ardchattan’s disused school is celebrating more funding.

This week the ambitious Ardchattan Centre project at Bonawe announced receiving £6,360 from the Scottish Land Fund, hailing it another ‘milestone’ in its quest to turn the school building into a hub-for-all.

‘Getting this funding is another milestone for us. It’s yet another endorsement of the project and is a great focus for us,’ said  Breege Smyth, one of the directors.

The money will be used  to fund feasibility work from surveyors, valuers, structural engineers and an architect, making sure the building would be an asset for the community for years to come and not a burden.

In May this year the project was also awarded £10,000 funding from the Scottish Government’s Launch Me fund to help progress its five-year business plan if an asset transfer from Argyll and Bute Council for community ownership goes ahead.

To celebrate the latest funding, the project will be hosting another of its popular pop-up tearooms at the school on Sunday November 17 from 1pm to 3pm, this time inviting the public to come and meet its architect Shauna Cameron from Benderloch to bring along ideas on how the centre should look.

Plans for the community hub include a cafe with its own bakery, a garden to serve the cafe, a performance space, a small industrial unit and rooms to hire for meetings events, evening classes and other occasions.

Two years since the project started, Ardchattan Centre directors are now finalising a detailed asset transfer request, having expressed an interest in the building earlier this year.

In September council members agreed a recommendation from officers that the mothballed school should shut for good and it was passed to Scottish ministers for final approval. The proposal was that education at Ardchattan School would be permanently discontinued from October 31 this year.

Mrs Smyth said the council was aware of their plans for a centre and the project  had so far received support from councillors and elected representatives, adding: ‘It’s a brilliant project and we are confident that their support will continue. This could become Argyll and Bute Council’s first asset transfer to give community ownership.’

To match the council’s requirements for a transfer, the project – a company limited by guarantee – has to show figures and how it fits in with the authority’s targets such as social inclusion, health and well-being, combating loneliness and creating jobs.

Profit made from the centre would be put to purpose, running community services. An electric bus, with a charging point at the centre, was requested by 66 per cent of people who responded to a recent wish-list survey.

This week, some of Ardchattan Centre’s directors met with Kirstin Lodge, development manager with Highlands & Islands Enterprise, to talk over the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) award and start planning for the second stage bid for SLF funding to buy the school.

On Saturday November 23 the centre will be hosting a Christmas craft fair from noon to 3pm.