Catrine Village, Ayrshire: environmental improvements
This was a study for Enterprise Ayrshire of improvements carried out in Catrine Village, Ayrshire over the last ten years. The study focused on the relationship between environmental improvements, economic support for local companies and the community’s impressions of how the village had changed as a result of this work. We also carried out an assessment of best practice in village improvements throughout Scotland. We also used workshops to develop a methodology which could be applied to future work in other village.
Our overall conclusion was that efforts made to improve Catrine have been positive and worthwhile. There has been a considerable improvement in the environment of the village over the last ten years and the majority of projects have been successful in helping to make Catrine a more attractive place. The local economy has benefited from investment made by a small number of employers who have received concentrated support from Enterprise Ayrshire and these companies remain critical to future employment opportunities in the village. The local economy appears to be as robust as it is ever likely to be given its limitations. There is also evidence that confidence in the village has been re-established and this may trigger interest and growth in new residential development although it is too early to say if this is the case. Although attendance at our workshop was limited, the prevailing view seemed to be that environment and community confidence had changed for the better although no change was detected in the economy of the village.
Although we have come to a positive conclusion about the Catrine projects and their effect on the village, we have been unable to find hard quantifiable evidence of a simple direct link between business performance and environmental improvement. This is not to say that such a connection does not exist. For example there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some cases environmental improvements have either helped secure development or have improved business prospects, but trying to quantify this has not been possible.
Case studies of other village improvement schemes in Scotland
The case studies of other village improvement schemes in Scotland highlighted five main facets of best practice. These were a holistic approach, community involvement, genuine partnership, local decision making and links between environmental improvement and community confidence: with the possible exception of the last, these facets were conspicuously absent in the Catrine schemes. Although there was a loose policy framework for the work and a small number of feasibility studies for particular areas, most of the project work seems to have been ad hoc and opportunistic. There is no evidence of a ‘Plan for the Improvement of Catrine’ which embodied economic, environmental and community issues.
From the case studies and from our own work set out in section 8, we suggest that the adoption of the following recommendations could yield benefits in future work:
- a framework is needed to generate consensus on local environmental, community and economic issues
- this framework should encourage “joined-up thinking” on regeneration matters and relate environmental action to community and economic outcomes – this is particularly important in rural areas
- the involvement of local communities is a major factor in maximising the effects of local environmental action and ensuring that projects are respected in use
- local business and resident communities are a valuable source of local knowledge to assist in the definition of local projects and should be brought on board at the outset
In addition to this, it is also suggested that the following points should be considered in similar work in the future:
- Improved appraisal and monitoring of projects: A number of problems occurred in evaluating projects where there was no indication of methodology in relation to outputs. For example, we had no indication of the methodology used for job creation.
- Better recording of objectives and starting points: In the case of environmental projects it was often difficult to establish what the original objectives were or in some cases, what the actual condition of the environment was before a project was carried out.
- Review of project objectives: In cases where the original objectives and purpose of projects have been stated, efforts should be made to review these on a regular basis and ensure that objectives are followed through. For example, the Catrine Voes project now appears to have been a purely environmental project and yet the original project documentation stresses the possible commercial aspects of the scheme and the economic benefit to the village. Presently it appears that little work has been done in terms of promoting potential economic benefits and Enterprise Ayrshire should encourage and assist the Trust with this work.
- Local contractors: It would be beneficial to local economies if a mechanism could be found for involving local contractors in future environmental works.
- Better consultation and publicity: Most businesses consulted during the study were aware that improvements had been carried out in general terms but found it difficult to elaborate upon specific projects. Consultation with local businesses, as well as the local community before the environmental improvements programme is implemented may assist in generating local support and allow local identification of priorities for improvements.