A COMMUNITY-owned school building – recognised as Scotland’s first and located in Strontian, West Lochaber – looks set to become a reality as its community share offer draws to a close, on the 28 February 2017.
With only a few days left, current community shares total £88,400 and SCSB directors are confident of reaching the minimum target in time – but want to surpass it.
Strontian Community School Building Ltd (SCSB), a Community Benefit Society, was set up in early 2016 to take forward community proposals to build a new primary school in the picturesque village of Strontian, West Lochaber.
The current school was acknowledged to be inadequate by Highland Council (HC) but their proposed solution to the issue – building temporary modular units – did not meet the aspirations of local parents, who wanted a high-quality, permanent solution for their children.
Taking on the challenge, parents proposed the community should build the school, lease it to Highland Council, in much the same way that Private Finance Initiative schools have been built.
In this case, however, the community finances and owns the building, such that any future profits are reinvested in the community rather than going to external interests.
Highland Council have agreed to this and supported the ongoing project.
Working with their advisors the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT), Co-operative & Mutual Solutions and Community Shares Scotland, the community have developed an innovative proposal that envisages converting the building into affordable housing if and when the Council no longer requires it for use as a school.
The estimated cost of £850,000 is challenging but nothing new to this community – two years ago, another local group, Sunart Community Renewables, built a community hydro scheme in the village costing a similar amount.
To finance the school build, SCSB has launched a community share offer. Investors can expect a return of three per cent, alongside the knowledge that they are part of a unique project which could form a model for delivery of other public infrastructure in Scotland in the future.
With some grant funding from the Scottish Land Fund and the local Common Good Fund (which disburses profits from the community hydro scheme), SCSB requires to raise a minimum of £100,000 from its community shares to secure loan finance from ethical funder Triodos Bank – but selling more would help reduce the size of the loan.
Jamie McIntyre, SCSB treasurer, commented: “We are conscious that other community share offers across Scotland have raised significant amounts in their final week, and we hope to do the same. This would strengthen the project by reducing the size of our bank borrowings.”
Kelly McIntyre, programme manager, Community Shares Scotland, added: “The team behind SCSB has put in a serious amount of effort to make this new community school project come to fruition with a dedicated campaign supported well by their local community. We are excited to see another community share project come to fruition in Scotland.”
Chair of Highland Council Education, Children and Adult Services Committee, Cllr Drew Millar, said: “The Council is delighted with the progress being made by Strontian Community School Building Ltd in its community share fundraising for the new build to accommodate Strontian Primary School.
“The Council will continue to work with the community to support this exciting project.”
Full details of the share offer, including business plan, share prospectus and application forms, can be found on SCSB’s website at www.strontiancommunityschool.org.uk and you can follow the project on Facebook and Twitter too.
For further information on Strontian Community School Building contact:
Jamie McIntyre, treasurer, SCSB
Rev. Donald McCorkindale, chair, SCSB
For further community shares information contact:
Kelly McIntyre, programme manager, Community Shares Scotland
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/ Twitter: @CommSharesScot
For information check out: http://www.communitysharesscotland.org.uk
For press information contact:
Fiona Stewart, PR consultant, Interwoven PR
T: 07940560453 Tw: @interwovenpr
Notes to editors:
Community Shares Scotland is funded by the Big Lottery Fund Scotland and Carnegie UK Trust. It is delivered by DTA Scotland in partnership with the Plunkett Foundation, the Community Shares Unit (a joint project run by Locality and Co-operatives UK) and Rocket Science. Its objective is to support enterprises, promote good practice and raise awareness of community shares as a sustainable funding mechanism for community enterprises.
Strontian Community School Building Full details of the share offer, including business plan, share prospectus and application forms, can be found on SCSB’s website at www.strontiancommunityschool.org.uk and you can follow the project on Facebook and Twitter too.
Picture credit: Sunart Archives – old Strontian School, not current building.
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