Welcome to the festive newsletter from
NEWCASTLETON & DISTRICT COMMUNITY TRUST
It has been a very busy year in the life of the Trust, this newsletter brings you up to speed with all that has happened and what we expect to happen in the coming months.
The site at 40 North Hermitage street was purchased in March 2016. Since that time, using the feedback from community consultations the board has been working hard to move the project forward.
Initially this project was just to reinstate fuel which was relatively straight forward. However, when it became apparent that to deliver the project the whole site had to be purchased the funders asked us to reconsider plans for the site. It makes sense to build forwards from the rear to the roadside, minimising disruption to neighbours, recycling and reusing demolished materials and eliminate the risk of finding unforeseen ‘surprises’ which might mean halting the project.
Thus, the concept of the Newcastleton Community Hub & Fuel Pumps Project evolved.
For this to materialise the board revisited all the consultation work undertaken at the outset of the community development plan. You said that lack of provision (and consistency of delivery) for broadband and mobile along with fuel were your chief gripes. Coming close behind were job creation and enterprise opportunities for businesses to grow and develop. Things like pop up shops to support our creative and craft sector and warm tech savvy spaces to have meetings. This list of ‘wants’ was brainstormed and the community hub element of the project began to take shape.
Thank you to the many who took time to leave comments and suggestions at Buccleuch House, when the design concepts were on display earlier this year. This feedback was incorporated, the concept redrawn, design tenders reviewed and a final design chosen. Necessary demolition and planning permits from SBC were granted in August. Following approvals, the design team worked with us to provide greater detail enabling outline project costs to be compiled.
What will you be able to do at the hub?
FUEL Fill up with diesel or unleaded, paying via credit or debit card using the new unmanned pumps. Space is designed to accommodate caravans and large HGV’s as well as take delivery of fuel safely.
PLUG IN To top up your electric battery (these are being installed to future proof the site and because our urban visitors are increasingly arriving in electric cars).
BUSINESS UNITS Behind the forecourt three business units will be available; 2 road facing, 1 lane facing. These will be available on long or short lets for small ‘non-competing’ businesses. We hope that two will be rented to new businesses and that one can be used as a pop up shop to support local crafters, artists and entrepreneurs.
The board has the support of Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway and LEADER to help support new or existing business.
Each unit will have its own self-contained kitchenette and disabled toilet as well as being linked to the superfast network. They are ideal for small retail or service businesses or for use as a small office.
These units offer the chance to grow our job market as well as offer increased services and amenities, there is no prescription for what or who should fill these spaces. ANYONE with a big idea who wants the chance to put this into practise can now have a go, it is up to you. Talk to us if you want to know more.
CONNECTIVITY HUB In addition to the business units, the rear will host the ‘connectivity hub’. Located on the ground floor this will be open for all to use. It is designed as a ‘plug in and play’ space enabling anyone to access superfast broadband. Bring your tablet laptop or phone and plug in. BT claim that speeds within the 1.4km circumference of the exchange will be fast, we understand delivery will be 50mbs. That means everyday tasks can be done very quickly; paying bills, checking bank accounts, filling in forms. If you wish to skype your grandchild in Oz or anywhere you can. If you need to brush up on your digital skills, you can. If you wish to download a program on catch-up you can. If you wish to interact via the social media platforms you can.
Depending on usage this facility will be FREE for anyone to use enabling superfast broadband access to all. Yes, you will need to visit the hub but you will get online, it will be fast and it will be an unbroken connection.
The board does have a strategy to get superfast to every premise in the community but this will take more time (and more money). This is a stop gap solution to ensure we don’t get left behind, so we can encourage our young folk to stay and encourage business to invest in our community.
The top floor is designed as a quiet area it will be open plan giving us flexible uses. You will need to book a desk or a space but these can be taken for an hour, a day, a week or longer. This space will be supported with all the mod cons you would expect to find in a tech savvy office; a business resource centre equipped with digital conferencing and so forth. If you have the option of working from home but not the capacity to do so because it is noisy, too many distractions, not enough support facilities, then this is for you.This space will be chargeable but the board wants it occupied so rates will be affordable.
Talk to us, it is being designed with you in mind. Now is your chance to influence the outcome.
Once plans were approved and a business plan created to support the venture, the board got the herculean task of finding the money to commence the build, and this is where we are now.
This task is ongoing but we are confident that the aims of the project meet the necessary funding criteria and that all the necessary funds will be awarded.
SBC helped the Trust enormously by submitting a bid to Scottish Government on our behalf to the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund for the majority cost of the hub element; £475,000. The project has reached the 2nd funding stage round and a decision of this will be known by February.
Two further funders have already committed to provide funding; Scottish Landfill Communities Fund £31,500, Scottish Enterprise Rural Fuel Fund £35,000 and the final cost of circa £650,000 will, we hope, be met by the new Capital Assets Fund from the Big Lottery. This funding has also reached significant milestone after two on site meetings between the board, lottery and community. We await the Lottery decision which is expected in January.
Within the funding budgets are included for professional fees, fit out, legal, contingency, VAT and inflation. Additionally, and probably most critical to the success of the overall project is budget to provide for 2 posts; the Capital Project Officer (full time role reporting to the board to manage the build and the funders over the 8-month period of the build) AND a Development Officer. The development officers post is for 3 years, full time, based in the Hub.
This role will initially be to tackle challenges that impact the wider community; broadband, mobile, flooding and economic opportunities like the railway extension and what that might bring as well as increasing our tourism markets. All these elements, if improved in any capacity, will benefit our local economy creating jobs offering real opportunities for the future.
OVERALL THIS PROJECT IS VALUED AT £1.2MILLION.
Before seeking this level of funding the board did a lot of investigative work visiting other locations and reviewing community projects. We learnt about successes, obstacles and in some cases failure. We concluded that if the hub and fuel pumps were to be as successful as the other local community projects such as Polysport and Whithaugh Bridge, then this project needed to be properly financed and structured. This has taken longer than envisaged and the resultant costs are higher than anticipated but the board are confident that with ongoing community support, the hub will be used and it will further enhance our community services and amenities.
Without it many will continue to have issues with broadband, small business will find it difficult to develop and local enterprise will struggle to evolve. The Community Hub and Fuel project breathes new life into a derelict eyesore offering opportunity and enterprise where there was none before.
If we are successful and receive this funding it is a HUGE accomplishment; Lottery receive over 100 applications per month with only about 1/3rd making the criteria for the 2nd stages. The bids are scrutinised for consideration of a share of a £50m grant which straddles a 5-year period. Very few projects are awarded funds in any one year. Scot Gov is similar; receiving 80 applications for a share of £25m. Our project is in the last round competing with the remaining 43 other projects! If Newcastleton bids are successful it will be cause for celebrations the like of which the Holm has never seen, but we have a long way to go yet!
TIMING If bids are successful the project will commence from April 2017 and be operational before winter 2017/18.
FUEL AND WHAT IT WILL COST
The board is committed to delivering a service which is not for profit in order that the whole community can once again make better use of the pound in their pocket. We want to encourage you to spend locally to support new and existing enterprise. From what you told us about your fuel purchase habits we calculate that buying fuel locally will save an average car owner circa £300 per year and that does not include the time saving!
The price at the pump will fluctuate reflecting the current market at any one time. The business model agreed by the board to ensure the most competitive service without exposing the community to debt is to purchase low volumes frequently.
The cost of providing the fuel service has fixed overheads like any other business; rates, insurances, licenses, electric, VAT, training, IT, finance and staff costs. Budget is provided for a part time forecourt manager who will be responsible for managing cash flow, deliveries and overseeing the site. We hope they will be supported by volunteers who will be needed to support the deliveries, cover for holiday and sickness. Over time, as routines become clockwork, this role will broaden to support the Development Officer in the hub. This is a responsible position with accountability and justifies a paid position. The role will be advertised in due course Thus, in a nutshell the more fuel we sell locally the cheaper it will be at the pump. The more of you that purchase, the cheaper the price for everyone.
BROADBAND MOBILE & OTHER ISSUES IMPACTING ON US.
In investigating the role of the Hub, the board has gained much insight into what other communities are doing and how they have overcome similar challenges to ourselves. We have joined several initiatives to further our learnings and share experiences. The Ettrick & Beyond Project, now concluded, enabled us to gain insight into who BT claim will benefit from a superfast connection. As far as the community is concerned that is 68% of all households in the catchment, but when you delve deeper and discover that BT are only obliged to install to 30% of capacity AND that those living over 1.4kms away from the exchange will receive a much-reduced delivery (the signal decays rapidly the further it travels) then the true net figure is only 28% of all households. That level of penetration if left unchallenged will continue to stifle growth and opportunity. It is a challenge that the Trust will overcome and we are investigating any means as to how to do this.
The Trust is also an active participant on the Scottish Borders Digital Forum, so far this has engaged operators, they have listened politely to concerns but we (the collective of all the rural communities within SBC) now require action. Scottish Government is currently consulting on how to fill in the ‘not spots’, a utilitarian solution will take time to be concluded.
Once we have found a likely solution we will consult you. Our preferred solution is B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North). They claim to be able to deliver a super superfast broadband service of 1,000mpbs (!) for only £35 monthly and £42 for a broadband and mobile solution provided via fibre to the home. You won’t need a land line or pay for line rental, in real terms this is a saving. More info available on www.b4rn.org.uk.
Communities that currently enjoy B4RN have been transformed. The board believe this service and capacity would revolutionise our community like nothing else.
We will organise a community meeting early in the new year to seek your views as to how you wish the Trust to proceed. B4RN have a proven skill set, have overcome many obstacles set before them and claim to deliver super superfast broadband to ALL the premises in the defined catchments they are set to assess. Too good to be true? Might be, but so far, we can see little to stop us progressing but the lack of cash to fulfil delivering the project. Look for notices and posters advising of meetings in due course.
We will need a robust turn out to assess support (or otherwise) if this is to be the next big project following fuel and the hub.
The Trust calculates that only 10% of our geographical catchment has mobile coverage. More and more of our day to day tasks rely on mobile technology; those who cannot access mobile are being penalised for having to use traditional methods to manage their businesses and lifestyles.
The Trust is encouraged by the recent announcement for the new Emergency Services Contracts for police, ambulance and fire services, which will mean new masts can host commercial platforms within ‘not spot’ areas. When this happens (expected Dec 2017) our hope is that mobile cover will be delivered throughout the area via a commercial operator and all households and businesses will have access.
It will be important that an existing commercial operator takes up the licence and provides a mobile service to the wider hinterland. It would be cost prohibitive and not sustainable for the trust to take this on even if it was possible under the forthcoming digital economy bill. Our efforts will be directed at working with commercial operators to make them aware of the size of the potential market and their return on investment if they take on the liabilities. The community swells by 30 to 40% during the peak tourism months. We believe this is being underestimated and undervalued by the operators.
The new masts are expected to be constructed to provide 4G technology, if this proves to be the case then many hard to reach places will also be able to access broadband via their mobile signal. Whilst this will not deliver the speeds of a superfast signal it will enable many to have online access for the first time. We can only await further developments; the type of masts to be installed (4G) and if the commercial platform is going to be taken up.
Until this is known planning for extending mobile coverage beyond the village boundary cannot be explored. Mobile will be a major part of the development officer’s remit; working with the operators and public sector agencies to solve this.
Best wishes for the festive season, Barbara Elborn, secretary
LAST WORD A huge amount of work has been done and remains to be done if the Trust is to deliver the ambitions of the community. We continue to need your support and to hear feedback. Please speak to any of the board to express a view; Scott Wilson, Margaret Elliot, Betty Wilson, Joan Robson, Pauline Gardner, Bert Leishman, Sarah Laing or Barbara Elborn. You can leave a note for us in Buccleuch House or email via the web site. www.newcastletoncommunitytrust.co.uk You can also email to note interest in any of the initiatives touched on in the newsletter. It only remains to say a huge thank you for your support so far, we are well on the way to seeing fuel reintroduced and benefiting from the improved economic prosperity that will bring.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas & prosperous 2017
Steve Hartley, chair