N E W S F E E D S >>>
Initiative At The Edge Main

Initiative At The Edge Web Site


Initiative At The Edge - Meetings



Welcome and introductions
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.

Archie MacNab, 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 favourable.
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.

Affordable 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 Initiative process.

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 underway.

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 www.initiative-at-the-edge.org.uk .

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 www.initiative-at-the-edge.org.uk

Search WWW Search caithness.org