Although this blog has only been going for under three months I doubt that I will be writing a more difficult post. It will be in the form of a before and after and sincerely hope that the after is more positive. We, as a Community company, are coming to a crucial stage in our negotiations over the rent we will be expected to pay for the use of a river on our landowners land. The negotiations have up till now been fairly tortuous and have moved little in eight months. I can only speak for the Company’s side in that there has been a huge amount of volunteer hours and effort put in and several people on a steep learning curve of hydrology, energy outputs, FITs,environmental studies, SEPA licences, not to mention planning, consultations, feasibility studies. The volunteer board have been buoyed up by growing support both locally and from visitors as they realise the board is very serious in achieving its aims. The Friends register is growing at a steady pace and feed back from outside Applecross is very positive. There is a perception that something positive happening here that every-one will benefit from. A good example on a local level. The Walled Garden is opening for the season this week and Aron from Toscaig(TottenhamtoToscaigblog) will be introducing his cooking skills to the North West of Scotland. The opinion at the Inn is great,’hope it works and it will compliment the Inn rather than compete with it.’ If every visitor who makes the effort to come to Applecross is welcomed and looked after instead of treated as a commodity then they will come back to stay and eat and spend willingly in this very special place. Good eating, camping welcoming facilities benefit every-one. What is so difficult to understand? Off to a meeting with some members of the Landowner’s Board with this thought in mind and hope this carries us through.On a less serious note Dougal is now trying to take out my garden. His latest wheeze is jumping off a wall and belly flopping into my honeysuckle in the pretence of trying to catch a robin.
It was a very affable meeting where views were exchanged, but not changed. There was a theme that ran through the conversation and it was about communication which in all walks of life is essential but I was surprised about the lack of knowledge of the hydro project, the figures, projections etc. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that fails to have open lines of communication. I know the effort that has been put into the project from this end and the amount of info that has been passed on but does not seem to have registered or got lost in the system. Some parts of the evening could have been in a sitcom. If you cannot laugh at yourself who can you laugh at. We were asked throughout the evening what were the 5 top priorities on the Company wish list and it is items like that send you off out with the Dougal family to make up a list.
For me the list is 1. Hydro. 2.Housing. 3. Care for the elderly. 4. Fuel poverty/sustainable living 5. Broadband provision. This wish list is subjective but is based on community and social enterprise. To me there was one big difference of approach from both Boards. The Community Company is going down the Social Enterprise road where you apply for a capital grant to set up a system or service that will then generate income to maintain itself and will not need any further funding. This will also create employment for the continuation of the service and we will need houses for the people employed. Some of the social services will be provided both by national funding as well as local, match funding from our green energy projects contributing to the wellbeing of the community. Civilised society is defined not by wealth but by how well we look after our elders. Our Broadband provision is dire and a proper locally run network would provide the working conditions taken for granted in the rest of our country. Employment and encouraging more people to live here is the essentials to living in a vibrant community. I say it to many people that we need at least another 100 probably 120 new people in Applecross to get to a healthy working population. I have seen this scaring the wits of certain people but to elucidate,a little tale of the party last week on Shore Street. Judith was concerned that as it went on till 5am neighbours would have been upset. That was when she realised that there were 4 people on the whole of Shore Street that night. 40 years ago there were 40. This is the case throughout the peninsular and if not arrested will slowly get worse. All you are trying to achieve is a restoration of a viable community.This is the driving force behind why I am in the Community Company. I do sympathise to a certain extent with Trustee Board in that funding streams are going to be harder to access and to get a capital grant to renovate either a property or infrastructure, to then after a period of time to do the same again is not going to be a viable way of operating a business. As to being more positive after the meeting I just do not know. On his walk this morning Dougal got really excited when he met Murphy the 2 year old Bernese, roughly 10 times Dougal’s size but that did not faze him.