Workshop at Coalburn - developing the Community Action Plans

Introduction:

Working with Urban Animation (lead) and Nick Wright Planning, we prepared these Community Action Plans (CAPs) with Coalburn Miners Welfare Charitable Society (CMWCS) and the Douglas St Bride’s Community Group (DSBCG). These organisations have an established record in supporting and leading community action in Coalburn and Douglas. They have acted in consultation with other local groups including the Rural Development Trust, Healthy Valleys and Douglas Community Council, through a project steering group. The Glespin community is also served by activities and services in Douglas. This study was carried out with support from the CARES fund.

The two community organisations are being supported by Foundation Scotland, an independent charity with expertise in grant making and community engagement. Foundation Scotland works with communities and developers across Scotland to design and develop community benefit funds, primarily from commercial scale renewable projects. Foundation Scotland is set to manage at least one community benefit fund confirmed for the two communities, and potentially more.

The three villages are located a few miles apart in the central part of the South Lanarkshire Council area, just off the M74 corridor. The nearest large towns are Lesmahagow and Lanark, which provide services and facilities not available in the villages. Hamilton and Glasgow serve most other needs but are 21 and 33 miles away respectively.

Why have Community Action Plans?

The Community Action Plans set out a vision for the longer term (up to 15 years) with more detailed activity across themes or priorities for the immediate five-year period. They will be helpful in guiding community activity and supporting grant applications for projects. Above all, they set out what local people would like to see happen in their communities over the coming years. Everyone with an interest in improving the communities of Coalburn, Douglas and Glespin should take account of the Community Action Plans.

Engagement:

At the heart of any good Community Action Plan is effective community engagement to ensure that the Plans genuinely reflect community aspirations. The engagement process conducted in order to prepare this plan is described below.

  • Community audit: identify key organisations and individuals in each
  • One-to-ones: contact and meet key community groups, schools, landowners, businesses and local authority officers/members to raise awareness of the work,  understand issues, aspirations and build trust in the process
  • Online: launch facebook.com/CDG2016 with regular update posts, ‘questions of the day’, and exhibition content
  • Publicity Leaflet: every household in each village to publicise community gatherings
  • Community gatherings: public workshop/drop-in in each village to identify future vision and actions, before preparation of draft Community Action Plans
  • Community exhibitions and drop-ins: public exhibitions in Coalburn, Douglas and Glespin to present and discuss draft proposals, before Community Action Plans are finalised

Communities in transition:

The three communities find themselves in an ongoing period of transition. Over-reliance on mining and older industries has left the villages struggling to find new sources of employment in recent times. Local services have been lost, some housing stock has been removed and depopulation is an issue at Glespin.

The challenge is for Coalburn, Douglas and Glespin to reinvent themselves for the current era – to emerge from their transition period with a sustainable future. These Community Action Plans are the first step. However, the dialogue which has been built over the course of the exercise needs to continue to grow as the communities find their confidence and play more of a role in their own future.

The feedback from the engagement events has been positive – there is no shortage of good ideas for each village. The residents of Coalburn, Douglas and Glespin are proud of their communities and want to continue living there, working there and raising families there. Making it easy for people to take action to improve their communities would help to build resilience. The following CAP Strategy and Action Plans aim to achieve this.

Action Themes:

We developed six action themes with the local communities:

  1. Help people into employment
  2. Improve local transport
  3. Improve quality of life, health and well-being
  4. Build community capacity
  5. Promote easy access to funding
  6. Building sustainable community assets

Action Plans:

These themes were developed into 16 specific proposals for Coalburn, 17 proposals for Douglas and 16 proposals for Glespin. The spatial aspects of these proposals are illustrated below.

Looking ahead:

These Community Action Plans are all about what can be done to make Coalburn,  Douglas and Glespin even better places in which to live, work and play. Each has challenges but most residents like living where they are and many have good ideas for making their places better. Some are already active in local groups while others have said they are interested in getting involved.

Positive change is always helped by good leadership. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a single body or group taking a lead. The Strategy and Action Plans in this report note that this approach will be appropriate for each of the settlements. However, the report also shows that good work is already being done by a variety of groups, organisations and businesses. Each has a role to play in leading their own projects but working hand in hand with others is likely to secure the greatest benefit. The CAPs can be used by everyone in the community including local businesses, landowners, third sector organisations and public agencies including South Lanarkshire Council. They provide an agenda to support funding bids for existing and new projects. They should also influence the delivery of public services and the allocation of resources by the Council and others.

Finally, CAPs have a shelf life. We recommend that the progress of the ideas and  proposals in this report are monitored and reviewed after three years. With commitment and hard work, we hope that the people of Coalburn, Douglas and Glespin can work with others to deliver positive change within that time period.