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Chairman’s AGM Reports

Coigach Community Development Company

Chairman’s Report 2014-15

This reports marks the end of our fifth year of operation in which we continued to pursue the goals identified by members of the community when the company was established. These are, essentially, to help Coigach achieve sustainability and growth in challenging times. Never an objective to be achieved in a short space of time we continue on the paths we have established and informed you of in the past.

Our main strategy is to secure sources of long-term income and to then spend that money in the community to help us collectively and individually achieve a range of things we can all benefit from. And we all know it is needed – we just have to look around our community to see ample evidence of that.

Few things of course happen in strict order, at the most convenient time and according to plan, and so it is that we have had delays imposed on us in our income generating projects whilst we have had opportunities thrust upon us before we have the resources to make the most of them. These things conspire to put more pressure on staff and our volunteer directors so I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their hard work throughout the year, and also those volunteer directors of our subsidiary companies who are not directors of CCDC – Alison Sinclair for Coigach Wind Power Ltd and Peter Drake for Ben Mor Hydro Ltd. We started the year with Julia Campbell, Anne Campbell and Peter Muir on our staff, each holding a part time post amounting to 1.5 FTE with Julia and Anne job-sharing the Local Development Officer (LDO) post, for which we are again grateful to Highlands and Islands Enterprise for funding, and Peter working as part-time development officer for the Smokehouse, funded by the Lottery. With Anne forced to take sick leave her post has been taken meantime by Linda Macleod who stood down from her directorship to take the role; likewise Alison Sinclair stood down from her directorship to take over from Peter in the role of part-time development officer for the Smokehouse. Both roles had been publically advertised.

CCDC Directors serving this year have been (in alphabetic order): Steve Husband, Ann (AB) Macleod, Linda Macleod, Iain Muir (Chair), Iain Scott, Phil Shaughnessy and Alison Sinclair. As I said, Linda and Alison stood down to take their employed positions. I will now give my customary encouragement for members to propose and appoint new directors who share our commitment and vision for community sustainability and development – too late for new directors at this AGM unless previously nominated but we can co-opt directors at any time.

The format of this year’s report is as before with input from directors of our two subsidiary companies, Coigach Wind Power Ltd and Ben Mor Hydro Ltd who will update us on their respective activities since our last AGM.

Looking at this past year’s activities I shall concentrate on those things which occupy most of our time and effort, being the priorities for a sustainable community:

Land and Housing

In response to expressed community need we have committed ourselves to provide community-owned affordable housing and this remains a priority for us. Our first success in achieving this objective has been the acquisition of the former Achiltibuie Schoolhouse from Highland Council which we have drawn up an agreement with Highland Small Communities Housing Trust to renovate and convert into two flats for which HSCHT has secured funding. Though the building was eventually sold to us for the princely sum of £1 the process was immensely tortuous and difficult. We would like to thank HIE’s Community Land Unit for their assistance in paying our and THC’s legal costs in the process. Julia’s role in this needs special mention.

We retain our interest in initiatives I’ve referred to in last year’s report – the provision of housing plots and new crofts through apportionment of Common Grazing land and the generous offer of land for development in front of Island View. These are some of those opportunities I referred to earlier which have come along in advance of being able to allocate resources to.

Regarding the site of the former Achiltibuie Hydroponicum, after considering a number of issues the directors opted not to apply to renew our interest in the site under the SG Community Right to Buy. We await with interest what the owners will now do with it.

Turning now to the Smokehouse. I’d just like to preface my remarks by answering those who say “Why are CCDC not doing anything with the Smokehouse – why don’t they start another smokery/micro-brewery/bakery/laundry/craft workshop/heritage centre/etc., etc.?” The simple answer is that that’s not what we’re here for. CCDC acquired the building for the community and we’ve invited the community to come and use it. We’re still waiting for people to come knocking on the door to say “Can I come in and start a smokery/micro-brewery/bakery/laundry/craft workshop/heritage centre”, to which the answer will be “Yes!” and we’ll help them with the process of getting started. But nobody, until recently, has had the ambition to use part or all of the Smokehouse for a commercial enterprise Meanwhile the smokehouse is being used by Heather Ablett for craft production, to house a heritage display, for the rowing club for its teams to practice on its rowing machines, by CCDC as its office and by the community trust for storage of equipment – all good and worthwhile uses, but not fulfilling the ambition we have for it. As I indicated, we are now pursuing a development with a local person keen to set up a new and valuable service business in the Smokehouse. We have funding for Alison’s post until March of next year by which time we expect to have plans approved and funding in place for developing the structure of the building to make it as attractive as we can for new tenants.

Renewable Energy

The anticipated steady income stream from our two renewable energy projects is vital for our community development plans –  for investment and support for community projects, organisations, businesses and individuals. The original grid connection dates given by SSE for our projects – 2014 – have slipped – something totally outwith our control but nonetheless a key issue for our projects, and a simple answer to the question “we have planning permission, so why aren’t we up and running?”

[Over to Alison Sinclair, Chair of CWP Ltd for CWP report]

[Over to Steve Husband, Director of SWT JV, BMH Ltd, for BMH report]

Badentarbet Pier and Old Dornie Harbour

This is being led by the Pier Users Group. Our involvement at the moment is to help the group source funding for a study which will define a development in Old Dornie and then apply for funding to the upcoming European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. This is something we have agreement in principle for from HIE to cover the majority of costs.

Other activities

We have continued to have discussions throughout the year with Scottish Wildlife Trust about the future of Acheninver Youth Hostel which they own and had leased to SYHA. We have advertised the opportunity which this presents on our website and recently on BBC Radio Scotland’s “Out of Doors” programme – we’ve had over 20 expressions of interest as a result of all of this and have passed these on to SWT. SWT may lease or sell the building and we are heartened that they have supported our view of the important role the hostel has served over the years by determining to ensure the building is retained as an asset serving the community through provision of accommodation and/or as a centre for outdoor pursuits. Why haven’t we taken on the hostel ourselves? Because we do not presently have the resources to do so.

We have a number of footpath projects registered with Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes’ Landscape Partnership programme which we are working with Richard Williams and his team on in their preparation for their final bid. If the bid is successful, as it is anticipated to be, it will see several new footpaths established, adding to a number of developments led by others in Coigach.

We continue to be involved with the network of small remote communities throughout the Highlands and islands which, like us are supported by HIE, and as before we meet with and share experiences and ideas with these communities in a process which allows us to learn from the experiences, successes and pitfalls others have encountered.

On broadband, we are working with Community Broadband Scotland on a proposed programme to link Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom communities with the Highlands and Islands superfast service. It remains to be seen what exactly this will deliver, and when, for Coigach, and we will pursue other avenues if it does not meet our needs. An audit we conducted last year revealed some 140 separate users of broadband in Coigach where it is put to use to benefit our local economy – this figure excludes non-local holiday home owners whilst acknowledging sometimes multiple use in a single household with mixed sources of income.

We were pleased to be able to help William and Lucy Wilding with advice and practical assistance in becoming crofters with the assignation of the then vacant croft close to the hotel – and it’s good to see the energies both have invested in it since in such a short time.

Communicating our activities and other matters to members and beyond remains an ongoing role for staff and directors. Never an easy thing to achieve to everyone’s satisfaction we work at it on several fronts. We have our online presences, with the CCDC website the CCDC Facebook page, the CCDC Twitter account and Coigach Wind Power’s website. We continue to publish and distribute editions of our newsletter, place minutes and other relevant documents in the Post Office and post notices in the community hall and in the Ullapool News.

Though we’ve moved the CCDC office to the Smokehouse our LDOs are present in the hall for consultation on Wednesday mornings to coincide with all the other activities taking place then. I would make a plea that if there’s anything you would like more information on, rather than sitting back and waiting for it, just ask! Most of us involved in CCDC are volunteers and busy people, but we’ll always find time to talk to you!

That brings my report to an end. It just remains for me to thank all the members for their support during the year and hope that we continue to receive it.

Thank You.

Iain  Muir

Chair, Coigach Community Development Company

009

Chairman’s Report 2013-14

This AGM marks the end of CCDC’s fourth year of operation, working towards our primary objectives of helping community sustainability and growth in challenging times. We’ve not got there yet but we are progressing along several different paths from which we anticipate emerging with substantial improvements and benefits for the area and all who call it home or who hold it dear…or simply come as interested visitors.

The format of this year’s report is as before with input from directors of our two subsidiary companies, Coigach Wind Power Ltd and Ben Mhor Hydro Ltd who will update us on their respective activities since our last AGM.

Before detailing the year’s activities I’d like to mention and thank our staff, Julia, Anne and Peter for their continuing hard work in tackling ambitious projects which in most cases are breaking new ground and which we hope will bear fruit for years to come. Julia and Anne job share the Local Development Officer (LDO) post for which we are again grateful to Highlands and Islands Enterprise for funding. Peter’s post is as part-time development officer for the Smokehouse, funded by the Lottery, in addition to which he spends a considerable amount of time as a volunteer working on our two renewable energy projects – having built an expertise and becoming established in that area when we previously employed him as a part-time LDO.

CCDC Directors serving this year have been (in alphabetic order): Maureen Fraser, Steve Husband, Ann (AB) Macleod, Linda Macleod, Iain Muir (Chair), Theresa Ross, Iain Scott, Phil Shaughnessy and Ben Walton. Maureen and Theresa stood down during the year because of other commitments. As ever, we are keen for members to appoint new directors who share our commitment and vision for community sustainability and development.

Looking at this past year’s activities I shall concentrate on those things which occupy most of our time and effort, being the priorities for a sustainable community:

Land and Housing

Efforts to provide community-owned affordable housing and workshops remain a priority for us. Our objective of adding to the local housing stock with the provision of community-owned social housing has not yet been achieved. However, we have a number of initiatives which, between them, we are confident will yield results. The project to get the Schoolhouse passed into community ownership is now well advanced with Highland Council finally on board and our successful engagement with Highland Small Communities Housing Trust who look able to secure funding and manage a project to convert the building into two residential flats. With her involvement in that project I am delighted to report that Julia Campbell has been proposed and selected to become a director of the HSCHT. Another initiative being pursued is the provision of housing plots and new crofts through apportionment of Common Grazing land – one of our crofter directors is actively leading on this with landowners SWT. We also have the generous offer of land in front of Island View for development and have very recently been in communication with Moulton Ltd regarding opportunities for acquiring the site of the former Achiltibuie Hydroponicum.

Turning now to the Smokehouse, a number of developments have taken place in the past year. To remind you, our objectives for the smokehouse are to try to replace some or all of those things we lost with the relocation of Summer Isles Foods, and more: to provide significant employment; to create a visitor attraction we can promote for the benefit of the whole community; to add value to local produce; to create opportunities for new business start ups; to develop the Achiltibuie brand. The money we were awarded by the lottery was essentially to purchase the building and develop the business case for its new life under community ownership. We have proposed creating a flexible, multi-purpose facility for food processing, heritage displays, crafts and a produce outlet. We ran a series of adverts locally inviting interest to be expressed by potential tenants; this yielded a number of enquiries some of which we are working with and building a case for additional funding to deliver those dedicated yet flexible facilities. As many will know we were also approached by an established food processing firm from outwith the community who was interested in taking over the entire site as a production base for a new product development and offering a good number of jobs. This interest put our own development plans on hold at the point where the plans diverged. The interest has recently been withdrawn as the company concerned have delayed their development plans, and we are moving ahead with our own plans again. Meanwhile the smokehouse is being used by Heather Ablett for craft production, by the rowing club for its teams to practice on its rowing machines, by CCDC as its office and by the community trust for storage of equipment – and it was the site for a pop-up shop in the summer raising money for Hall funds.

Renewable Energy

The anticipated steady income stream from our two renewable energy projects is vital for our community development plans –  for investment and support for community projects, organisations, businesses and individuals. The original grid connection dates given by SSE for our wind and hydro projects have slipped, both now standing at December 2016 – something totally outwith our control but nonetheless a key issue for our projects, and a simple answer to the question “we have planning permission, so why aren’t we up and running?”

[Over to Alison Sinclair, Chair of CWP Ltd for CWP report]

[Over to Steve Husband, Director of SWT JV, BMH Ltd, for BMH report]

I will just add that while our interest in the wind and hydro projects is because of the income they will generate, it was nice to see that they were short-listed for the inaugural ‘FRESH’ (Fintry Renewable Energy SHow) awards in May of this year.

Badentarbet Pier and Old Dornie Harbour

For much of the past year this has been dealt with by Coigach Community Council and the Pier Users Group. CCDC stepped back from things after we had commissioned and delivered the Wallace Stone report as the community council was seen as the more appropriate organisation to lead on Highland Council owned facilities. As we know, Badentarbet Pier has been closed without reasonable prospect of reopening; plans to develop Old Dornie into a fit-for-purpose harbour were dealt a blow when an application for funding to the Scottish Coastal Communities Fund was rejected. Just recently CCDC has become involved again in a bid to seek funding for a professionally produced application for an upcoming European fund (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund 2015); we all hope that that will yield the sort of result we need for what is our most important economic sector.

Other activities

Discussions are ongoing with Scottish Wildlife Trust about the future of Acheninver Youth Hostel which they own and lease to SYHA who want to divest their interest in it. Though it has undoubted appeal, we are reluctant to simply take it on as in its present state it falls well below the standard expected of accommodation generally being offered, and it is financially precarious. It does however have potential, not necessarily as a youth hostel but perhaps put to some other leisure activity purpose; SWT will be promoting this to its database of members through one of its publications and online to see what responses are forthcoming. All being well the hostel will be transferred to community ownership through CCDC.

We have a number of footpath projects registered with Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes’ Landscape Partnership programme which we are working with Richard Williams and his team on in their preparation for their final bid. If the bid is successful, as it is anticipated to be, it will see several new footpaths established, adding to a number of developments led by others in Coigach.

We continue to be involved with the network of small remote communities throughout the Highlands and islands which, like us are supported by HIE, and as before we meet with and share experiences and ideas with these communities in a process which allows us to learn from the experiences, successes and pitfalls others have encountered.

On broadband, with Coigach not due to benefit from the Scottish Government funded roll out of fibre optic broadband across the Highland and Islands by virtue of our size and remoteness, and with the logistical challenges posed by the alternative solution being offered by Community Broadband Scotland we are arguing our case with the MD of BT in Scotland and with HIE’s Head of Digital and Broadband for provision of a better service. An audit we conducted revealed some 140 separate users of broadband in Coigach where it is put to use to benefit our local economy – this figure excludes non-local holiday home owners whilst acknowledging sometimes multiple use in a single household with mixed sources of income.

On the subject of what we see on screens, it was a great pleasure to see Neville Gaby’s film ‘Afloat’ which charts the building and rowing of the community’s second coastal rowing skiff, the Lily Rose. For those who haven’t seen it yet it’s a super film showing the community and its spirit in a tremendous light. The project was initiated through Susan Christie of Inverness Old Town Arts and CCDC with an application for funding for Neville as an artist in residence in Coigach. I am pleased to say the project has been recently shortlisted for a national ‘SURF’ award and though the film has so far only been shown selectively, it will be seen far and wide and will do the community no harm at all. There are plans to show it in New York, and our MSP Rob Gibson was so taken with it he wants to have it shown in the Scottish Parliament.

Communicating our activities and other matters to members and beyond remains an ongoing role for staff and directors. Never an easy thing to achieve to everyone’s satisfaction we work at it on several fronts. We have our online presences, with the CCDC website (https://ccdcompany.wordpress.com), the CCDC Facebook page, the CCDC Twitter account (@CoigachCDC)  and Coigach Wind Power’s website (http://coigachwindpower.wordpress.com/). We continue to publish and distribute editions of our newsletter, place minutes and other relevant documents in the Post Office and post notices in the community hall and in the Ullapool News.

Though we’ve moved the CCDC office to the Smokehouse our LDOs are present in the hall for consultation on Wednesday mornings to coincide with all the other activities taking place then. I would make a plea that if there’s anything you would like more information on, rather than sitting back and waiting for it, just ask! Most of us involved in CCDC are volunteers and busy people, but we’ll always find time to talk to you!

That brings my report to an end. It’s been yet another busy year with much achieved yet much still to do in order that the hard work and long hours that we’ve put into this process finally start delivering lasting benefit to all of us in Coigach. I’d finally like to thank all the members for their support during the year and hope that we continue to receive it.

Thank You.

Iain  Muir

Chair, Coigach Community Development Company

 

YH Path

Chairman’s Report 2011-12

This report marks the end of CCDC’s second year of operation as the mechanism established as the focus of the community’s collective desire to ensure its future in uncertain times. With a lot of projects, opportunities and ideas on the agenda it has been another busy year for staff and our volunteer directors. We have seen some significant milestones reached, and despite having had our share of disappointments, we are well on track to deliver the challenging objectives the community has set us.

For the benefit of those new to CCDC, the company was established in response to concerns expressed in the community about issues such as the lack of affordable housing, declining school roles, declining services and infrastructure, lack of workshops, our fragile economy and our aging demographic.

Since last year the local economy was hit by the major blow of the announcement in February that Summer Isles Foods Ltd, our biggest employer and a company with a 30-year history in the community which founded it, was to relocate to Alness on the east coast, some 80 miles away effectively rendering its entire workforce redundant unless prepared to relocate. Summer Isles Foods relocation, disappointing as it is, is an expression of commercial realism which the company is able to respond to by relocating; we on the other hand do not have that option and we must make Coigach viable where it is – to that end, galling though it may be to have the Summer Isles and Achiltibuie brands appearing on product packaging and promotion coming out of Alness, the very fact that our community is being talked about and appreciated in markets around the world is a consolation and something we can capitalise on.

Directors serving this year, drawn from and elected by the Company’s membership are (in alphabetical order of surname): Nick Clooney (Vice Chair), Steve Husband, Ann Macleod (Ann Ali Beag), Anne Macleod (resigned in September 2011), Ian Macleod, Iain Muir (Chair), Phil Shaughnessy, Richard Williams. In addition to Elected Directors we have two Co-opted Directors: Linda Macleod and Ben Walton (Finance Director). As we are committed to seeing a turnover of directors, this AGM will see the resignation of a number of directors and the election of new directors. Co-opted Directors’ appointments end with this AGM. Our job-share Local Development Officers (‘LDOs’) are Peter Muir and Julia Campbell – Julia having been appointed in August 2011 when Linda Macleod left to take up other employment. Peter and Julia’s contracts were renewed in January when a new round of funding came available.

CCDC is one of a family of community development companies and trusts operating throughout the Highlands and Islands, most with a similar structure of volunteer directors and paid LDOs. All are community-owned and all enjoy the support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (the Scottish Government enterprise agency) who, along with LEADER (a European Union development programme), pay for our LDOs and provide support and advice. A key benefit of this network is the sharing of ideas, experiences and solutions. Some of these community companies have been established for many years and own their own land, houses, piers and other assets – Knoydart community for instance – while others are a few steps ahead of us in their pursuit of a similar development model to ours – many of the Orkney islands and Gigha for example – and still others have developed benchmark social enterprises – such as Sleat in Skye and Northmavine in Shetland for example. With network meetings organised by HIE we now know the individuals who have personally delivered a whole series of very valuable benefits to their communities, and with all this experience and expertise just a phone call or email away, we are in a great position to move forward.

As it should be, we continue to enjoy excellent relations with other community groups here in Coigach, and the support of individual members of the community, as evidenced by the strong backing we have had throughout the year. One of our directors (Ann Macleod) is also secretary of Coigach Community Council and acts as an effective bridge between the two bodies – this is very helpful as although the two organisations have entirely different legal standings and purposes, both are ultimately concerned with community support and viability.

Company operations

Our basic company strategy is to pursue two parallel strands of activity: income generation and income disbursement. Clearly these are wholly interdependent – without income we have nothing to spend, and without reason to spend money there is no point in earning any. It’s not really a matter of ‘chicken and egg’ – we have plenty of opportunity to earn income and plenty of things to spend it on. As yet we have little if anything in the way of income generation, but that’s as we knew it would be. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will Coigach’s future be put on a secure footing in a couple of years.

Whilst we operate at one level through monthly directors meetings, on a day to day basis there is a lot of email and phone traffic among LDOs and directors, and outwith the community, by various formal and informal routes. As an indication of the volume of work being done, my email tally for the 2012 so far with just the LDOs is in excess of 490.

Effective communication with stakeholders is a challenge for all organisations and one we seek to address through a number of initiatives. We now have several ‘on-line’ presences, with the CCDC website (https://ccdcompany.wordpress.com), the CCDC Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coigach-Community-Development-Company/134572066608123) and the new wind energy project website (http://coigachwindpower.wordpress.com/). In addition we have published and distributed a number of editions of our newsletter, we place minutes and other relevant documents in the Post Office, we post notices in the community hall and our LDOs are present in the hall for consultation on Wednesday mornings to coincide with other the library and doctors’ surgery – and we’re all just a phone call or a text message away.

An important development undertaken during the year has been the selection and appointment of an accountant and lawyers to act for CCDC. Whilst the accountant role is, at this stage, simply a formal matter of preparing and presenting our annual accounts to Companies House we expect it to become more complex in time as we start to deal with more significant sums than presently. We were pleased to be able to engage the services of a fairly local accountant, Tim Wright CA, who lives in Elphin. As we are already entering into some complex contractual and other legal matters it was important that we engaged lawyers able to serve our interests and accordingly we have appointed the firm of Harper Macleod who are based in Glasgow but with an office in Inverness.

Part of this year’s operations has seen the successful establishment of two new trading companies: Coigach Wind Power Ltd as a wholly owned subsidiary of CCDC, and Ben Mhor Hydro Ltd, a formal joint-venture between CCDC and Scottish Wildlife Trust.  Establishing these trading companies are the first steps in adopting an overall structure which best suits our purposes both legally and fiscally; we anticipate establishing a charitable arm in the near future in advance of developing our income streams.

As we established in our first year of operation, we respond to the diverse community needs and opportunities through working groups of directors and LDOs focusing on our three main priorities: Land and Housing; Piers and Harbours; Community Energy. These are now considered in turn.

Land and Housing

In Land and Housing we want to provide much needed community-owned affordable housing and workshops.

In my last Chairman’s report I spoke of our aspirations for the former Achiltibuie Hydroponicum land and buildings for which we had registered our interest under the Community Right to Buy (CRtB) provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The owners had announced their desire to sell and we embarked on the six month long, resource-hungry process of satisfying the Scottish Government that we should be able to acquire the property. Everything was on track for a successful sale until the vendors pulled out just four days ahead of the deadline for the process to conclude, citing an unacceptable valuation by the independent district valuer. This was most regrettable as the CRtB process allows vendors to challenge the valuation at an early stage, yet they chose not to and this resulted in a lot of wasted time and effort by the community in the preparation of a business plan, undertaking a community ballot, arranging finance, etc. The Hydroponicum building is now rapidly deteriorating and has become an eyesore in the centre of a community dependant for a significant part of its income on tourism. The owners’ plans for the site are not known but our CRtB registration will remain in force for some years to come.

The very regrettable relocation of Summer Isles Foods Ltd adds to the community’s sustainability challenges. The shock of the relocation news was compounded when we learnt that only after the relocation was announced, and despite our protestations on behalf of the community, HIE sold the smokehouse building itself to Summer Isles Foods. Since that time we have been in negotiation with HIE and with Summer Isles Foods and we are now embarking on a CRtB bid for the redundant smokehouse building.

Before leaving CRtBs, we are lodging our community interest in the Achiltibuie Schoolhouse to ensure it stays as a community resource – either for the vacant head-teacher post or otherwise as a community asset. This perhaps unusual step follows very equivocal messages coming from Highland Council about their future intentions for the schoolhouse, and knowledge that the schoolhouse in Applecross was sold by the Council without community consultation.

In addition to the above we have and are actively pursuing a number of other options in the community to acquire land for community owned social housing and for workshops. We are assisted in this by Highland Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT). We were grateful to be offered first refusal on a multi-site location in the community by a private owner, an offer we considered carefully but turned down on advice from HSCHT.

Piers and Harbours

The Piers and Harbours group, working alongside the Community Council and Pier Users Group continues in its exploration of the opportunities to acquire Badentarbet Pier and Old Dornie harbour, both vital to our local economy and both threatened as a result of underinvestment by Highland Council.

We secured funding for a study into the options for community ownership of the pier and harbour. The study, being conducted by Wallace Stone and Partners, marine consulting engineers from Dingwall, is establishing the detail, scope and cost of the remedial work required and identifying opportunities for economic development.  If taken over by the community we may be able to access money for repair and development not accessible to Highland Council.

Community Energy

The Community Energy group is working on the two big projects which will be the essential money-earners CCDC needs to deliver its programme of community benefits, and without which we will be able to little if anything.

Dealing firstly with the wind turbine project, a number of milestones have been reached:

  • We secured development funding through Community Energy Scotland to take the project forward to planning consent. This £150k loan is converted to a grant (i.e. non-refundable) if our project doesn’t go ahead because of financial, technical or planning obstacles. If the project goes ahead as planned we can readily pay it back from earned income.
  • In October we erected a 50m wind monitoring mast at the proposed turbine site – a feat achieved under the close supervision of Steve Husband who has made a living for years doing this sort of thing, and who has given very generously towards the project.  Initial results suggest a very promising rate of return from the site, with clean wind in copious supply. The monitoring mast will collect data for a full year and, together with data already gathered, will form an important part of our detailed business plan.
  • We established Coigach Wind Power Ltd (CWP) as a wholly owned subsidiary of CCDC. Directors of CWP are Alison Sinclair (Chair), Steve Husband, Kevin Peach, Ann Macleod and Iain Muir.
  • CWP has applied for and been quoted for a grid connection for the turbine. This will be subject to further discussion with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) who act as agents for the National Grid. Our connection is scheduled to be established in 2014.
  • The data package for the planning application is virtually complete and ready for submission.
  • The route along the single track road between Drumrunie and Achavraie has been demonstrated as being suitable to carry the trucks required to deliver the turbine to the site.
  • A well-attended community information event was held to provide all those interested with a summary of the project. The event, organised by our development consultants, Atmos, was attended by over 90 residents plus the local school children and others including local councillor Biz Campbell.

The micro hydro project planned for the Achavraie burn has also achieved a number of significant steps towards implementation:

  • A formal joint venture has been entered into with landowners Scottish Wildlife Trust. Costs and profits will be equally split between both parties.
  • A new joint-venture company, Ben Mhor Hydro Ltd (BMH)has been established, with two directors representing SWT and two representing CCDC. CCDC nominated directors are Steve Husband and Peter Drake.
  • Like CWP, BMH has secured development funding through Community Energy Scotland to take its project forward to planning consent. This £150k loan is on the same terms as the CWP loan.
  • We have accessed valuable real-time water flow data from Scottish Water who monitor the burn for their own abstraction purposes.
  • BMH has appointed John Duncanson Engineering to progress the development of the project. This is a very well established developer with a track record on small hydro projects which is second to none.
  • The project is at the stage of seeking the necessary permissions to abstract water from the burn from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), prior to applying for planning permission.
  • A useful meeting has been held with common grazings shareholders to discuss compensation agreements for the development on the common grazings.
  • BMH and CWP are collaborating with regard to their connection to the grid.

 Other projects and activities

As was the case last year, in addition to the major projects above we have been involved in other activities with the express purpose of providing community benefit – these are fewer than last year, reflecting the time commitment demanded by the bigger projects:

  • We continue to investigate opportunities with land owners and planners to develop a more attractive and welcoming ‘gateway’ to Coigach at Drumrunie junction. This is a novel idea with considerable potential benefit for many in the community.
  • We have organised a number of excellent and well attended business skills training courses with Business Gateway for local individuals and businesses.
  • We continue to work with SWT and contribute to the Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes (CALL) project which they lead. We were pleased that our Vice Chair, Nick Clooney, has been appointed to establish and run the tree nursery for CALL.

In conclusion, it has been another busy year, not without its disappointments but with our major income generating projects coming much closer to fruition with many milestones passed and important structures and relations in place. Looking forward, we intend staying on the path we have established and consolidated over our first two years of activity – we have the confidence of seeing things progress in Coigach and know from the experience of colleagues in comparable communities elsewhere that our plans are capable of delivering the outcomes we seek. We hope you approve of all we have done.

Thanks

I know I can speak for all Directors in thanking our Local Development Officers, Peter and Julia (preceded by Linda), for the sterling work they have done throughout the year and the successes they have achieved so far. Likewise we must thank our funders, HIE and LEADER. As last year, I once again would like to thank the Directors for all their work and those other members of the community who we’ve called upon to assist us in various projects and activities. And I should like to thank you, the members of our company for your continuing support.

Iain  Muir

Chair, Coigach Community Development Company

Achiltibuie Schoolhouse gate

Coigach Community Development Company

Chairman’s Report 2010-11

This has been a busy and exciting year which has seen CCDC become established in the community as a vehicle for its ambitious plans for sustainability and development.

We started the year with the company’s first AGM and election, by its members, of its first Board of Directors. Our Directors are either elected or co-opted, and are drawn from the Company’s membership. Elected Directors are (in alphabetical order of surname): Nick Clooney, Steve Husband, Ann Macleod (Ann Ali Beag), Anne Macleod, Ian Macleod, Iain Muir, Phil Shaughnessy, Richard Williams. Linda Macleod, also elected as a Director, stood down to take up her post as a company employee. In addition to Elected Directors we have two Co-opted Directors: Julia Campbell and Ben Walton. In keeping with our community focus, a youth representative also attends our monthly board meetings and we were pleased to welcome Joseph Peach to this role and we value the contributions he makes.

The company was established in response to concerns expressed in the community – at the ‘have Your Say Day’ and at other times – about issues such as the lack of affordable housing, declining school roles, declining services and infrastructure, lack of workshops, our fragile economy and our aging demographic. Sustainability and development requires investment, and CCDC is concerned with both sides of the equation: were money needs to be invested for community benefit and where it needs to be raised in order to pay for it.

CCDC is quite a different animal from Coigach Community Council. It is not a tier of local government: it is a limited company (limited by guarantee) regulated by the Companies Act with volunteer directors who have legal obligations prescribed by that Act. It issues neither shares nor dividends, so no individual (other than employees) profits from it; all profits are returned to the community. Unlike the Community Council it has ‘members’, it can employ staff, enter into a wide range of contractual arrangements, borrow money, and is an eligible organisation under the Land Reform Act. Three of our Directors are also community councillors, so there is a lot of cross-over and communication between the two organisations. In this regard we are like very many communities throughout the Highlands and Islands who have both community councils and community development companies or trusts working in their interests.

Though we are not a charity, our Articles of Association are written such that they comply with charity law and we could, and probably soon will, register as a charity.

Company operations

One of our first actions was our successful application to register the community’s interest in the old Achiltibuie Hydroponicum and surrounding land through the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, this early action has recently provided us with the opportunity to purchase it for community benefit.

The next significant event was our becoming accepted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as an ‘Account Managed Community’. This gave us access to support and advice from HIE, and most importantly, it gave us the funding to employ Linda Macleod and Peter Muir as our job-share Local Development Officers. The provision of these jobs is the first, we hope, in a long line of economic benefits that CCDC will bring to the community. Since their employment began in October 2010 Linda and Peter have been tremendous assets to CCDC and Coigach and they have worked hard and effectively for our great benefit; their complementary knowledge, skills and experience make them a formidable team.

Around the same time as Peter and Linda took up their posts we launched the CCDC website (http://ccdcompany.wordpress.com) which provides us with an important means of communication with members and the rest of the community, and beyond. The website contains news stories, information, minutes of Directors’ meetings, our Articles of Association, survey results, and so on – much of it also printed and displayed in the Post Office for those not able to access the Internet.

To respond to the diverse needs and opportunities we established sub-committees of directors to work on our current three major areas of focus: Land and Housing; Piers and Harbours; Community Energy.

Land and Housing

In Land and Housing we are exploring opportunities for providing much needed community-owned affordable housing and workshops. In this we accept the reality that we no longer live in times when the Local Authority is prepared or able to assist us – there will be no new ‘Island View’ built to provide starter homes for young families and others. Various options are being pursued including:

  • firstly, revisiting the project initiated by the Community Council which tried to build affordable housing on land between the Piping School and Island View with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust;
  • secondly, writing to all local land owners and grazing clerks in the hope of identifying a spread of plots throughout the community to avoid expecting too much from one landowner or township – a model adopted successfully elsewhere in the crofting counties;
  • thirdly, exploring the opportunities presented by the land below Island View, kindly gifted to the community for that purpose by Alan Graham;
  • fourthly, some directors who are also crofters are exploring options they may have to be able to access land on behalf of the community;
  • fifthly,  with our registration of interest in the old Hydroponicum and land now moving into the next stage we have a real prospect of acquiring it for the community.

Piers and Harbours

The Piers and Harbours group, working alongside the Community Council and Pier Users Group is trying to secure the future of Badentarbet Pier and Old Dornie harbour, both vital to our local economy and both threatened by underinvestment by Highland Council. Badentarbet Pier is threatened by permanent closure because of structural decay, whilst Old Dornie needs investment to reach its full potential for commercial and leisure users. CCDC has acquired funding and is currently tendering for a feasibility study into community ownership of both facilities. Under community ownership we may be able to access money not accessible to Highland Council – in this regard the European Fisheries Fund offers us good opportunities.

Community Energy

The Community Energy group is working now on two projects – the original wind turbine project that was so strongly supported in the community ballot in 2009, and a new micro-hydro project. These projects are going to be the essential money-earners which will allow the CCDC to deliver the community benefits that we need if Coigach is to remain vibrant – and without which we will achieve little if anything.

The wind turbine project continues along the path towards achieving planning permission. Vital stages of the process are either underway or are about to be – the bird survey, a major part of the environmental impact assessment, is now underway with funding CCDC received from the Lottery’s ‘Awards for All’. More funding, this time sourced from Community Energy Scotland, we are fairly confident will be confirmed shortly, and will see the remainder of the work necessary to allow us to apply for planning permission begin. As is the case in many funding applications, the applicant – CCDC – is required to contribute a percentage of the total itself. In this case we are supplying and erecting the wind monitoring mast as an in-kind contribution – and we are greatly indebted to Steve Husband for providing the equipment and know-how for this. We’ll be erecting the mast shortly.

The micro-hydro project is a new initiative we’re looking at in association with Scottish Wildlife Trust, on a joint venture basis. The plan is to develop a small-scale hydro-power plant on the Achavraie burn which could generate, according to a desk-top study, up to 300kW of power to sell onto the National Grid. A separate application to Community Energy Scotland will, we are confident, also provide funding for a feasibility study for the micro-hydro project.

Small scale hydro projects such as this have only come into the frame as viable options for development with the introduction last year of the UK Government’s Feed In Tariff Scheme, which disproportionately favours small hydro schemes with attractive payment rates for electricity generated.  Attractive though the idea is, we have to regard the micro-hydro as an add-on project  – it won’t generate that much profit; as someone from Community Energy Scotland said – a nice project for a community hall, but not big enough for a community.

Other projects and activities

In addition to these major projects we have been undertaking a range of other projects and activities:

  • With tourism such a big part of our local economy we have been involved in a number of tourism-related initiatives. In this we share the aims of the Achiltibuie Tourist Association. Our Director Julia Campbell is Secretary of Achiltibuie Tourist Association. Though much of what we do touches on tourism, specific projects include:
    • Investigating opportunities with land owners and planners to develop a more attractive and welcoming ‘gateway’ to Coigach at Drumrunie junction;
    •  We are also exploring opportunities for providing an online booking service for local accommodation providers;
    • We have attended meetings and input comments to the North West Highlands Geopark Steering Group which seeks to develop the geotourism market in the north-west.
    • We have undertaken research to understand more about the socio-economics and attitudes that prevail in our community.
    • We are providing business skills training and will shortly be running our first training course with Business Gateway – an e-commerce training course.
    • We were also pleased to agree to take on the development of the planned Polbain Footpath from the Polbain crofters who conceived it as we, unlike them, have the resources to project manage it – and we recently put out to tender the renovation of the Polbain Peat Track which drew a lot of local expressions of interest, but unfortunately this is now on hold as the landowner does not approve of the CCDC involvement.
    • We have developed good and productive relations with Scottish Wildlife Trust who are keen to work with us on housing, renewable energy and other projects to help us achieve our objectives for the community; their enlightened approach is most welcome and encouraging. Amongst other things they have involved us in their brainchild, ‘Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes’, which sees six contiguous landholdings stretching from Tanera Mor up to Quinag being managed to benefit ecosystems and their communities – this should see real benefits coming to crofters on Ben More Estate through environmental schemes.
    • We have set up a local business email group as a forum for exchange of information, job vacancies, joint working, resource sharing, etc.
    • Following community consultation and research we have created a Community Development plan.
    • We have attended a number of events such as the Ullapool Tourism Conference and Trade Fair, the All Energy Conference in Aberdeen, a Soil Association small hydro event in Aberfeldy, and networking meetings for LDOs employed throughout the Highlands and Islands.
    • We are applying to a fund created by Scottish Seafarms and open to communities such as ours, for videoconferencing facilities to allow us to offer what is an increasingly demanded service to help local businesses, agencies, individuals and visitors.
    • Finally, we have provided letters of support to a number of local businesses seeking funding to develop the services they offer the community.

So, as you see we have had a busy and exciting year in which we have taken many actions in pursuit of our community objectives.

Looking Forward

Looking forward we intend to pursue all those projects you’ve just heard about, and we will continue to consult you, our members and others in the community and pursue new opportunities you may bring to us which may help us meet our community objectives.

But as well as opportunities we have our challenges too:

  • Effective communication is always a challenge and keeping you as members and others in the community informed of what we are doing is an ongoing issue. If any of what I’ve just said to you about our past year’s activity comes as a surprise then it proves my point. We have recently produced our first newsletter, distributed earlier this month; the website is kept updated and information is displayed in the Post Office, Ullapool News, etc. But I’m aware we need to communicate better. As we start getting into the meat of new projects there will be more opportunity for meaningful interaction with the community – as will be the case next Tuesday (28th June) when we are asking community members to come to the Hydroponicum to share their ideas and views on what best use we could put the building and land to should we acquire it for the community.
  • Linda and Peter, our LDOs, term of office ends in November of this year with the end of the European funding programme which pays their wages. HIE hopes to roll the programme forward in which case we can continue to employ them – but though things are looking positive in this regard it is by no means certain.
  • The local electricity grid which serves Ullapool, Coigach and Assynt, is near capacity and there are many renewable energy projects, from both communities and private operators who are all hoping to get a share of what capacity is left. If we are to raise the money we need for community sustainability and development from renewable energy we need a good share of that remaining capacity – and it remains to be seen if we are going to get it.
  • And the issues which started the talk which started the CCDC have not abated. Fuel prices continue their upward spiral, public spending cuts bite deeper into our services, our housing stock continues to be lost to the second-home market. Since our company was set up Achiltibuie Pre-School has closed and shortly we will have just a one-teacher school.

But we’re optimistic, because we know this place is worth it. It’s where we want to live, work, play, bring up kids, grow old in, or whatever, but above all: to enjoy.

Thanks

Finally, I and the other Directors would like to thank our Local Development Officers, Linda and Peter, most sincerely for all they’ve done so far. I would also like to thank the Directors for all their work and those other members of the community who we’ve called upon to assist us in various projects and activities. And I should like to thank you, the members of our company for your continuing support and encouragement.

Iain Muir

Chair, Coigach Community Development Company

20 June 2011

 

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