Four Lochaber based community projects have been successful in securing almost £600,000 worth of funding, out of an additional £2.3 million that was transferred to the EU Highland LEADER Programme at the end of 2010.
Kilmallie Free Church in Caol has been awarded £250,000 towards a £550,000 extension to their building, which will enable them to deliver an increased range of community support and development activities. The project will comprise the renovation of the existing church building and a large extension to create a facility which will provide services for the entire community. Works will include significantly larger meeting spaces, new kitchen and toilet facilities, modern heating and lighting systems and disabled access. A drop-in centre with a café and computers for educational and community use will also be created.
Kilmallie Free Church minister the Rev. Christopher MacRae said: “On the 50th anniversary of the establishment of our church in Caol, we are delighted and humbled by the support we have received for our building project, both from LEADER and also from the many and varied groups within the community who wrote in support of our application. Our congregation and denomination as a whole have also shown their commitment to the project by giving their sacrificial monetary backing to enable us to further our community work in Lochaber.”
Kilmallie Hall in nearby Corpach and Ballachulish Hall secured grants of £170,000 and £94,000 respectively for a series of upgrades to make the facilities more environmentally friendly and efficient, accessible and fit for purpose. These works include the installation of a bio-mass boiler, new insulation and upgrade of the roofing structure at Kilmallie Hall. At Ballachulish meanwhile, works will include the installation of double glazing, solar panels, new stage and PA system and additional storage facilities. The outcomes of these projects will include increased usage of the facilities, reduced running costs and the provision of new community activities.
Jimmy Smith, Treasurer of Kilmallie Hall said: “It is with great pleasure that we can now announce that the refurbishment of the Hall is underway, with the grant from Highland LEADER and assistance from Community Energy Scotland and Highland Council. It has been a long struggle and we thank the regular users of the hall for their patience and support through all the days of leaking roof, and cold hall. The hall has been very busy over the last year, and with all the improvements will become more viable and enable further development in the future and thus become a major asset to the community.”
Drew McFarlane-Slack MBE, Ballachulish Community Association Secretary said that the 25 year old village hall will secure its long term future with this grant. “The improvements will reduce its carbon footprint, provide better access for the disabled and offer cutting edge equipment to travelling theatre and musical companies. We are thrilled that the Highland Leader Programme supported our application and we hope to have the first of our contractors on site within the next few weeks."
Meanwhile, the Knoydart Foundation secured £83,000 towards a new water and sewerage system for the Home Farm area of the village of Inverie. The current system is old, unsafe and environmentally unsatisfactory and expensive to maintain. The new system will bring substantial environmental improvements and allow future developments of housing and a bunk house/education centre. Angela Williams, Development Manager for the Knoydart Foundation said: “The Knoydart Foundation are hugely grateful to LEADER for the support they have given to upgrading the sewage and water systems in this area. Securing funding for this type of project is not easy and the Foundation did not have sufficient resources to undertake it on its own. We now have a system that we can maintain and manage effectively and will allow us to take forward future projects which will provide better facilities in the area and contribute to the sustainability of the Foundation.”
Harry Whiteside, Chair of the Lochaber LEADER Group explained that the additional £2.3 million had been transferred to LEADER from elsewhere in the Scottish Rural Development Programme, specifically to support community services and facilities projects in Highland. He said: “The level of grant on offer from this ring fenced sum had been higher than normally available under LEADER and applicants had to work to tight timescales to take advantage of this. The successful outcome for Lochaber reflects a lot of hard work from all who were involved in the process.”
In addition to these projects Lochaber’s standard LEADER programme has continued to support a range of small to medium scale local projects including:
• £5,220 for an engineering study on Nevis Radio’s transmitter network to identify possible savings in operating costs and expand the station’s coverage;
• £30,000 to Kilmallie Shinty Club for the construction of a new clubhouse and community changing facilities at Canal Parks;
• £48,000 for development works at Glenfinnan Station Museum;
• £4,500 to the Sunart Oakwoods Initiative to commission a consultant to develop a business plan to deliver activities identified by recent community consultation;
• £5,850 to Voluntary Action Lochaber to assist a range of community groups to develop their local play parks;
• £20,000 to Isle of Muck Community Enterprise Ltd to commission an engineering design for an extensively upgraded and enhanced electricity scheme on the island.
Martin Culbertson, The Highland Council’s LEADER Development Officer covering Lochaber said: “The range of projects and enquiries coming forward continues to be very interesting and it is great to see so many successful applications. I would encourage any community group with a project idea to get in touch to discuss it further. Help and support is available with the application process and we are keen to maximise the benefits from this funding stream.”
Full information about the LEADER programme and details on how to apply for funding can be found at www.highlandleader.com. The minimum grant award is £1,000 and maximum grants are at the discretion of local LEADER groups. Awards from the current programme can be made up to March 2012.