Wigtown & bladnoch community initiative

 

21 North Main Street

Planning Application submitted

We successfully completed the purchase of 21 North Main Street, Wigtown at the end of January and went straight to work with the architects to finalise the plans ready for submission to Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The plans have now been lodged with the council and are available to view and comment on the Council’s website at: https://eaccess.dumgal.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=PPHPERGBGO300

What is proposed for the former bank building?

The following section lists the services and activities which we will provide from the former Bank:

The Book Town Bunkhouse

The Book Town Bunkhouse will comprise one 8 bed mixed dorm and one private double bedroom as well as basic kitchen facilities and a shared ‘Living Room’ area. This social space will be used by visitors staying at the Bunkhouse. There will be a wet room with shower, toilet and hand basin and a separate rest room with a toilet and hand basin. Sleeping 10 people, the Book Town Bunkhouse will complement the existing accommodation available in Wigtown. Primarily catering to walkers and cyclists, the bunkhouse will serve the lower end of the market – providing simple, but high quality accommodation, at a low price. As the bunkhouse will be small, we do not anticipate any displacement from existing businesses.

Community Garden

There is a large garden to the rear of the property (536m2) which is currently tended by a local person. Local community research suggested that there would be appetite for turning the space into a community garden and allotments. W&BCI are hoping to partner with local garden groups to manage the space with the possibility of developing community “editable gardens”. We plan to hold a public meeting towards the end of August 2019 to look at the best use of the garden space for the community.

Affordable Housing

The housing needs analysis undertaken by Dumfries and Galloway Small Communities Housing Trust (DGSCHT) established a need for more affordable housing in the area. As a result, the former bank will be converted into two affordable homes. The two upper floors will become a three bedroom family flat, and the ground floor space to the rear of the building will become an accessible one bedroom flat.

These properties will be available at local social rent levels – which are currently £302/month for a one bedroom flat and £398/month for a three bedroom flat. These prices are benchmarked to charges made by Loreburn Housing – one of the main Registered Social Landlords in Dumfries and Galloway – and are indicative of rates at the time of writing.  The initial rates will be determined by the relevant local rates when the properties are available to the rental market.  With the support of DGSCHT we will establish an allocation policy, and set up the relevant procedures for managing tenancies. One named member of the board will act as the landlord and be the emergency contact for repairs and maintenance.

GoFundMe to raise 5% of purchase price

We hoped that the Bank of Scotland might assist the community purchase by agreeing a discount on the purchase price but they have declined. The Initiative therefore needs to raise about £8000 to complete the purchase (£6,000 to complete the purchase valuation price and £2,000 for legal and additional purchase costs).

WBCI has set up a GoFundMe web page to request donations to help raise this amount. Without this final amount of money we cannot complete the purchase of the building.

Please donate to support us and pass one the link below via Social Media, email or whatever means you can think of to encourage others to do the same.

https://www.gofundme.com/wigtownbankbuilding

Town Centre Living Fund Application Success

The intention of this fund is to increase the supply of affordable housing in the regions town centres and settlements by bringing empty properties back into use.

The former Bank will include a one bedroom flat to be let at £70.75 per week, £306.58 per month, £3,679 per annum; and a three bedroom flat to be let at £93.32 per week, £404.38 per month, £4,852.64 per annum. We believe these levels are in line with those expected from Registered Social Landlords and within the levels for the Local Housing Allowance, which ensures affordability for residents as per our priority of offering alternative options for affordable letting in the Wigtown and Bladnoch area.

D&G Council’s Communities Committee were pleased to announce that WBCI has been awarded £60,000 from the Town Centre Living Fund to support the work necessary to convert the three bedroom flat and single bedroom ground floor apartment.

Public Ballot Results

The Votes have been counted and the result was as follows:

In Favour : 226

Against: 51

We now await the decision of the Scottish Government to see whether the overwhelming majority will enable us to proceed with the purchase for the benefit of the community.

Stage one funding from the Scottish Land Fund

The Scottish Government’s Scottish Land Fund has awarded Wigtown & Bladnoch Community Initiative stage one funding from the Scottish Land Fund.  The money is for developing detailed proposals for the community to buy the former Bank of Scotland building in Wigtown. It adds to a grant from the Rural Housing Fund to look into needs for housing in Wigtown and Bladnoch, and to consider how the former bank could provide affordable housing options.

The building is now for sale, and we have a registered community interest which gives us until December to complete plans and put funding in place.  Local architect, Hazel Smith, and two consultancy companies – Community Enterprise, and Dumfries & Galloway Small Communities’ Housing Trust – have been brought in to provide design expertise, and support with community engagement and business planning.

We will be arranging meetings in the new few weeks to hear what local organisations, groups and residents think, what people would like to see, and what they are worried about.

All residents within the area of Wigtown and Bladnoch will have the opportunity to vote to determine whether the former Bank becomes a community owned asset in July and we will be encouraging everyone to have their say.  Posters, flyers and other information will be displayed and posted around Wigtown and Bladnoch over the coming few weeks.

Register of Community Interest Confirmed for Old Bank of Scotland

Just before Christmas we received official notification from the Scottish Ministers that they had decided that the community’s interest in the former Bank of Scotland branch in Wigtown should be entered into the Register of Community Interests in Land. The Bank of Scotland had been given the opportunity to submit views on our application but, as they had chosen not to, the Scottish Ministers considered that this meant that they had no objections to it.

Nothing more can happen until the Bank of Scotland formally notifies the Scottish Government that they want to sell the building, at which time the community’s right to buy will be triggered and W&BCI will be given first refusal. W&BCI will then have at least six months in which to work up detailed proposals for the building to satisfy both the Scottish Ministers on the sustainability of the plans and the Scottish Land Fund who could provide up to 95% of an independent valuation of the Bank building and land.

Signatures of support required

If you live in Wigtown & Bladnoch and support us, please sign the petition at the following venues:

  • The Post Office,
  • Scads,
  • Machars Action,
  • Beltie Books.

The petition DOES NOT make a commitment to buy; it only seeks to establish the right to buy. If the property was made available for sale, a full community consultation and ballot would be required for WBCI to proceed with an actual purchase.

Please note this is a statement of your support, and NO financial commitment is required.

Wigtown & Bladnoch Community Initiative is a community led company limited by guarantee that is proposing to apply to register a community interest in 21 North Main Street Wigtown. This would give the community first option to purchase the property if it was put on the market.

Bank of Scotland feedback from the public meeting

Following the successful public meeting where future uses for the bank building were discussed, we are now developing a strategy to take forward the ideas and deliver the best resource we can for the community.

Themes from the public meeting included:

  • desire for community facilities such as bank, click & collect depot, ATM;
  • affordable housing;
  • cheaper accommodation for visitors;
  • book museum,
  • indoor market place (year round version of Kist).
  • bank building to support and promote local businesses, like a co-operative;
  • workshop space;
  • renewable energy sources incorporated;
  • community use of the garden.

Galloway Gazette reports….

Thank you to the Galloway Gazette for reporting the initial meeting to consider our community purchase of the soon to be defunct Bank of Scotland Building in Wigtown.

Galloway Gazette Friday 1st September 2017

 

 

Current Projects

Wigtown & Bladnoch Community Initiative has a registered Community interest in 21 North Main Street, Wigtown – the former Bank of Scotland building.

What is proposed for the building?

After public meetings, and work with a range of groups and organisations in the area, run by W&BCI with expertise from Community Enterprise, the favoured proposals for the building are:

Affordable flats – convert upstairs into a family size affordable flat; and convert the back part of the ground floor into a fully accessible one bedroom affordable pensioner flat.  These tenancies would be for people with local connection; our research has shown that there are lots of people struggling to find good affordable accommodation in the town, so this would help.

Bunkhouse and community space – convert the main “retail” area of the bank that opens off the square into a bunkhouse for visitors with an internet hub.  Similar to the bunkhouse idea at the Barholm Arms in Creetown, affordable holiday accommodation for pilgrimage, walkers, cyclists and so on is lacking in Wigtown. And at busy times, there is just not enough holiday accommodation in the area.  Offering maybe 8 bunkhouse beds would mean that more people can stay in the town, and they’d shop and eat and drink at local businesses as they appreciate our wonderful town and the surrounding Machars countryside.  Also, we hope we might be able to get some community banking into the internet hub part time, because a lot of people have told us that some sort of banking would be a real bonus for the town, as well as being a link back to what the building has been used for, for decades.

These ideas come from the local community.  The bunkhouse idea is different from what other businesses and organisations do in Wigtown and Bladnoch.  There would need to be work done on the building whatever is decided, but for these proposals it looks like there could be several sources of funding to get the work done.  And once it’s up and running, there will be some income which means we should be able to create some employment such as helping to manage and clean the bunkhouse.

Please help us Let Wigtown Flourish.  Can Wigtown bank on your support?

The Old Showfield on Southfield Lane has stood empty and neglected for nine years. Wigtown & Bladnoch Community Initiative has been formed to regain community ownership of the Showfield. We feel that it would greatly enhance Wigtown.

Initial ideas for the future use of the Showfield have included affordable housing and business units, an area for outdoor events with space for a marquee and parking, a community orchard and various projects.

Using Community Right to Buy legislation, the Scottish Government has given us the right to buy the land if the current owners put it on the market.  If that happens, we would apply to the Scottish Land Fund for a grant towards the cost.  Unfortunately the owners, 3b construction, have a planning application for 43 houses (of various sizes) for the old showfield.  For the present, therefore, we are waiting to see what the Council decides about their application.