Contact: Development Manager: Emma Griffiths email@example.com
Action Porty Chair: Justin Kenrick firstname.lastname@example.org
Scottish Land Fund grant – £647,500
Projects and activities:
In September 2017 Action Porty took over Bellfield church and grounds in Portobello order to enable weekly classes and one off events that are accessible, affordable and community building. This was the first Urban Community Right to Buy in Scotland and secured a vital community resource in a context of a rapidly expanding population and vanishing community resources.
Main successes so far?
We have mobilised the community, and brought the community together to save this vital community resource. Our classes and events are proving successful, and this is becoming a key community hub. For example, our anchor tenant – Edinburgh Youth Theatre – is providing a vital, affordable and accessible enabling environment.
Main challenges so far?
1. Despite being essentially very sound, the building required more care and attention than we’d expected, and new standards of safety were required to be put in place, in particular fire detection and protection. This delayed our opening from December 2017 until June 2018, since Action Porty wanted to ensure the building was as safe, and accessible, as possible. In addition there are levels of protection for listed buildings, like Bellfield, and in Conservation Areas. This requires additional consents and sensitive design interventions subject to scrutiny and approval from local authority and Historic Environment Scotland. These have cost implications commissioning appropriately skilled design teams, as well as in phasing, and crucially funding and financing repairs, improvements and alterations to make spaces work better, be fully accessible, and regulation compliant.
2. The other major challenge has been that we have been in need of far more paid human resource to manage the whole process. We have keen volunteers but only one paid staff who has to manage events, bookings, development, grant applications, volunteers, etc.
Any advice for groups thinking of taking on land assets?
Go for it!
But know the resource you are taking over, and know the regulations that you will need to adhere to, so you know what needs doing,
Seek to secure sufficient funding for paid staff so that you can really take off and begin turning a profit and becoming sustainable swiftly.