INITIATIVE AT THE EDGE
NOTE OF THE MEETING TO PUBLICLY LAUNCH THE INITIATIVE
IN SOUTH EAST CAITHNESS
9TH FEBRUARY 2005
PORTLAND ARMS HOTEL, LYBSTER
Councillor Billy Mowat, chairing the meeting, thanked and welcomed those
attending. Cllr Mowat expressed his support for the introduction of
Initiative at the Edge (IaaE) in SE Caithness and welcomed the
opportunities it will present for the area.
Purpose of the meeting
Ian Hargrave, Highland Council Caithness Area Manager, explained that
the purpose of the meeting was to get a local steering group up and
running so that the community could take control of the Initiative as
soon as possible. Mr Hargrave was heartened to see such a good turnout
of local people.
What is Initiative at
the Edge about?
Eann Sinclair, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, explained that the
Initiative was a partnership between the public agencies and the
community whereby the communities set the development agenda and use the
Initiative badge to lever influence and support from the public
agencies. Initiative at the Edge had been instigated in 1998 and had
subsequently become an initiative of the new Scottish Executive. The
Executive retains a strong interest in IaaE. The first phase had
involved 8 fragile rural communities from across the Highlands &
Islands. Each area is involved for 5 years and South East Caithness had
entered the programme in October 2004. The most important aspect of the
Initiative is that developments are driven by the community with agency
support and advice.
Crofters Commission, explained the Initiative at the Edge process:
Stage 1 – the agencies meet with community representatives to establish
that there is a willingness to participate. This had happened in
November 2004 and the response from the 2 local community councils was
Stage 2 – a steering group is formed made up of community
representatives with close involvement of agency staff.
Stage 3 – audit and consultation carried out to establish local issues
and priorities for development and a development plan formed.
Stage 4 – delivery: agency help, guidance and financial support is
provided to take forward local priorities. One of the important and
useful aspects of the Initiative is the close relationship with the
Scottish Executive and the Initiative is currently overseen by Allan
Wilson, Depute Minister for Rural Affairs.
Mr MacNab reported that the Initiative had had varied success in the 8
areas that had gone through the process and there had been some positive
and unexpected results.
housing - update
Di Alexander, Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, explained that
the role of HSCHT is to work with communities in the Highlands to
identify their housing needs and aspirations. One of the ways of doing
this is a housing needs survey and Mr Alexander will be putting together
a questionnaire and surveying the SE Caithness area in early March.
HSCHT has the capacity to buy land on which local housing associations
can provide affordable housing which is not subject to the tenants right
to buy. HSCHT can also buy land to provide serviced plots.
Youth involvement - update
Helen Allan, Highland Council (Community Learning & Leisure) reported
that recently she has been carrying out consultation with
“hard-to-reach” groups to find out which issues were affecting the
teenagers and young people locally. The East coast of Caithness was
being targeted to find out what the young people wanted and to see if
these needs could be addressed. A consultation meeting will be held with
the young people on 27th February in Lybster and the information used to
help better targeting of services in the area.
Question and answer session
The meeting was then opened to the floor for questions and the following
issues were discussed:
· Affordable housing and the Highland Council Local Plan: if a planning
application is put forward on a site that is not listed for development
in the Plan that does not necessarily mean that planning permission will
be denied. The Plan is just a starting point to be taken into
consideration when deliberating planning applications, providing
guidance but it is not legally binding.
· Funding in the Initiative areas: Scottish Executive has provided
£10,000 to each Initiative area for the local Steering Group to use for
their Development Plan. Although the public agencies have not been given
extra money to spend in Initiative areas, because the Initiative is
backed by Scottish Executive the public agencies are duty bound to
prioritise the area when allocating resources. Also, many of the issues
which are priorities in Initiative at the Edge communities do not
require funding, but may need policy change or other types of support.
The Initiative can be a powerful lobbying tool.
· Vacant crofts in SE Caithness: there is known to be a number of vacant
crofts in the area and not always a willingness from the landowners to
re-let these. Archie MacNab reported that the Crofters Commission is
aware of the problem and will carry out a survey into absenteeism in the
area. Crofts can be removed from absentee crofters if a demand for
crofts is found in the local area.
· Projects to be developed in SE Caithness IaaE area: the development
ideas that have come forward so far vary between some very small and
relatively easy to achieve projects to much more ambitious projects.
Once all the ideas have been gathered together they will be prioritised
by the community and the development plan will be prepared.
· Culture and heritage in SE Caithness: culture and heritage projects
are valuable to the SE Caithness area in that they provide not just
educational and social benefits but have been shown to have a good
economic return, providing jobs and tourism infrastructure. The culture
and heritage groups in the area discussed their potential involvement in
the Initiative and have agreed to collaborate on strategic projects for
the benefit of all SE Caithness.
· Local steering group: it is the intention to appoint a local steering
group at this meeting that will lead the community involvement in the
Setting up a steering group
Niall Smith, Caithness Voluntary Groups, felt that those who came
forward to form a steering group need to be positive about the process,
and have the time, energy and interest to commit to the group. A formal
structure will be decided upon once the role of the group is clearly
defined. All Initiative areas have the opportunity to ask for paid
support in the form of a Local Development Officer and a funding package
has been agreed for that already. Further funding may be available for
the group’s administrative costs such as venue hire etc. The LDO could
be appointed by the Steering Group once the Development Plan is
The following people agreed to become initial
members of the Steering Group:
Andrew Gunn, Lybster
Peter Sutherland, Lybster
Sue Steven, Berriedale
Katrina MacNab, Wick
Carole Darmady, Upper Camster
Magnus Henderson, Dunbeath
Iain Gunn, Lybster
Alex Calder, Lybster
David Henderson, Wick
Neil Buchanan, Dunbeath
Helen Budge, Mid-Clyth
Alison Gunn, Lybster
The first meeting of
the Steering Group to be in Dunbeath Hall on Tuesday 15th February at
7.00pm. The meeting will be advertised on posters locally and Mr
Smith will send out a letter to inform the local voluntary bodies.
CASE staff were thanked for their part in facilitating the successful
introduction of the Initiative in SE Caithness.
Health Service Review - Scottish Executive is seeking participation from
people living in Initiative at the Edge areas in the current health
service review. Questionnaires were provided at the meeting and should
be to be returned to Ian Hargrave over the next few days as the
consultation period is due to close on 11th February. Alternatively the
questionnaire is available on the Initiative at the Edge website
Lybster Fire Unit – the chairman asked those present to publicly
endorse a local action group’s efforts to stop Highlands & Islands Fire
Brigade downgrading the Lybster Fire Unit and withdrawing their ability
to attend house and property fires. There was full support from the
meeting for the action group’s efforts.
For more information about IatE visit the website