On Monday 12th October, Comrie Development Trust welcomed a visit from Dr Aileen McLeod, Scottish Government Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, to Cultybraggan Camp. Cultybraggan is a great venue for the Minister to launch the evaluation report on Community Right to Buy and it is nearly 10 years since people in Comrie set up their Community Development Trust, which then purchased the 90 acres at the Camp and nearby hill ground on behalf of the community. Three quarters of the people in Comrie voted on this issue, and 95% of them voted in favour of exercising their ‘right to buy.’
Speaking at Comrie Development Trust, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said: “I’m delighted to be here at Comrie Development Trust, who successfully used the Community Right to Buy to purchase 90 acres at Cultybraggan Camp. Since purchasing the Camp in 2007 the Trust has worked closely with the local community to develop a range of activities including a community orchard, allotments, sports and recreational facilities and renewable energy projects.”
Forty five people are employed in the 21 local businesses with premises at the camp. The camp is an events venue used by Strathearn marathon and other groups. The site has 30 allotments, an Orchard with produce recently on sale at a pop-up shop in the village, and a polytunnel worked by Comrie in Colour, gold winners again in this year’s Beautiful Scotland Awards.
In addition, through the work of the Trust’s Heritage Group, the Camp has growing recognition as the site of historic importance. The recent Doors Open Day attracted 500 visitors, and visiting the camp, a sister and brother from Germany, visibly moved as they talked of their father’s memories of his time there as a prisoner of war and his stories of good treatment in the camp and village.
Dr. McLeod continued: “Comrie Development Trust is an example of the benefits the Community Right to Buy can bring to local communities. I welcome today’s report which looks at the impact of community right to buy legislation over the last 10 years, for the first time.”
“The report identifies examples of successes by community groups purchasing land through Community Right to Buy and also identifies barriers that face community groups and what we can do to address this. This report will contribute to our on-going work on community ownership of land through the Community Empowerment legislation, as well as our proposals for communities to compulsory acquire land for their sustainable development through the Land Reform Bill.”
The positive reputation, developed under community ownership, has produced further success in getting pledges for substantial funding to establish 10 units of self-catering accommodation at Cultybraggan Camp. This funding will be available, if the local community and people from elsewhere show their support by purchasing the community shares currently on offer. With sufficient take-up of the share offer, and the funding which will then follow, the community is projected to be eventually receiving £45,000 per year for use on the village developments.
The lesson so far is that investing in the site that the community owns, brings benefit back to the community. This message has led to the much wider plans for Cultybraggan Camp about to be presented to the community for its decision on the way forward. The share offer to help establish the self-catering venture is only the start of the next phase in community ownership.
As Bill Thow, Chair of the Comrie Development Trust Board stated, “Investment funds to achieve the community ownership of Cultybraggan Camp has already brought major benefits to the local area. The Trust is now looking to build on that foundation of ownership to generate significant investment funds back into the village community, both through its share offer and following community involvement in planning the way forward.”