Porty Podcast

1. Urban Community Buy-out of Bellfield Church

November 16, 2016
Porty Podcast
1. Urban Community Buy-out of Bellfield Church
Chapters
Porty Podcast
1. Urban Community Buy-out of Bellfield Church
Nov 16, 2016
David Calder
Show Notes Transcript
The people of Portobello have achieved a Scottish first – the first urban community buy-out granted by the Scottish Government. Bellfield Church is a landmark building, dating back to the start of the 19th century. When the Church of Scotland decided to merge three of the parishes in the area, it was closed as a place of worship. But the community wanted to turn the building and its associated halls into a space for the community. This is the story so far.
Speaker 1:
0:01
[inaudible],
Speaker 2:
0:06
Portobello Edinburgh's seaside. This is a thriving, growing community with people doing all sorts of interesting things in the arts, sport and heritage. They all have their stories to tell, which is why we have [inaudible] podcast.
Speaker 1:
0:20
Wow.
Speaker 2:
0:24
In this first episode, the people of Portabello have achieved a Scottish first. The first urban community buyout granted by the Scottish government. Bellfield church is a landmark building dating back to the start of the 19th century when the church has gotten decided to merge three of the parishes in the area. It was closed as a place of worship, but the community wanted to turn the building and its associated halls into a space for the community. First friends at Belfield and then action party were formed this week. A well attended public meeting was held to hear about progress and the plants roots development from a group of consultants. Getting to this stage just meant some pretty intensive work. As I heard from someone who's been involved from the start, Justin Kendrick,
Speaker 3:
1:08
well we've had conversations with the church here over the last three years and anticipation of the fact that they were merging because they've gone through this process of merging the three congregations. So it was clear that they were going to be two churches to church buildings are gonna be for sale. So as that became evident and then as Saint James was on the verge of being sold and then they've been through all that process, it was all quite um, it wasn't very clear from the outside what was going on, but it was clear what the outcome would be. And at that point in 2013, the minister at Bellfield at the time wrote a paper about, you know, the future. He saw if that if Bellfield wasn't one of the church, the church that the congregation's merged into and he saw it as a kind of ecological center for the future on the John Muir way.
Speaker 3:
1:47
That goes along the problem there. And he wants to get to carry that kind of spirit. So in a sense that the question come up this evening about how can it carry on being a sacred space as well as being just useful for the community I think was there in the minister's mind and it was something that kind of there that informed the thinking coming into this process when we had the meeting in April in a above tripe 40 but the point is at that point suddenly there was pressure put upon you, you really needed to draw the community together. Suddenly this needed to happen or not happen. And of course what you've got, what you usually get, which is a few people saying something can happen and everybody else saying, no we can't. Mostly because nobody's really busy doing their own stuff and therefore they're aware of the amount of work it's going to be involved and they're not necessarily able to commit to that.
Speaker 3:
2:26
But a few of us got together at that point in March. It was a to say what are going gonna do about it? And then we called the meeting in April, which was packed out. It was a small space, but it was over 70 people. It was packed out with real concern and and passionate a lot of ideas. And from that we then formed friends of Bellfield to a dozen of us to carry it forward with a lot of other people saying we'll do bits and pieces and it's a very resourceful community with people really able to step forward and make the press contacts or find the right people to do, you know, different aspects. And then some of that 500 people involved in total. Yeah, I've got, I've got over 500 members now. That happened four days. We've got about 340 members when we suddenly we'd left it a bit late as we do.
Speaker 3:
3:04
This is all been done in very fast as well as we can. But over the time period, you've got a limited time really not just the way to here, the church selling, but lots of ways that you've tried to secure scotch land funding before the end of this financial year. So we've got to kind of two processes that we were working within that both mean that we need to move quite fast. And so we've got over 340 members within four days and that reflects not us, but the community in the fact that community is so willing to, you know, take action and respond and tell their mates, take action response. So that we've got the got the backing we need. And of course the great thing is that you are, this project is, is the first to be a community buyer but at first urban community by if it works.
Speaker 3:
3:39
Yeah, it was a certain the first to register to do the community buyout, which gives us eight months from the church designing to sell to us being us raising the funds. And if we can raise the funds in that time, then we have the first, first right to buy it. And it has to be a market value rate. They're not going to be done in, they're going to get, I think probably a better rate. And they get from developers because they had developers turning up to look at the place. And obviously what it would turn into for it's still privately turned to houses, tend to flats and develops have turned up. I was told by there was a church and they'd walked away cause they said, well this is, this is not, it's got a graveyard here. This isn't possible. We can't use this in we want to.
Speaker 3:
4:11
So I think unlike Saint James is actually not that valuable space from the point of view of somebody developing it for houses versus an invaluable space for the community of an extraordinary space that we want to keep with the challenge of actually developing the space or giving the vision for this space that being passed across to a series of consultants and Richard Hedgie from urban animations, is that correct? He has an animation. Urban animations gave the presentation for the hard work that you put in over the last few weeks and months. You have a particularly interesting challenge in the sense that you have a 200 plus year old church and a 60 year old set of calls next to it. How did you address that challenge? It's a fairly straight forward answer. That one, the building has inherent quality, particularly in that church space. It's a beautiful list of space, but the holes themselves are also very well proportioned spaces.
Speaker 3:
5:09
They're very useful for the kind of functions that they serve at present and in fact what we're trying to do with the building is largely what already happens there. It's use of those holes by community groups and its use of the church space as a ceremonial please. So fundamentally we're not really doing much. That was different. What we want to really do with this, this building is to encapsulate the quality already has internally but also externally and the graveyard and burial areas and the memorials. Just add that extra bit of character to this and part of the discussion tonight mentioned the idea that this building and set of spaces has the opportunity to create something that isn't offered locally elsewhere. It would be a unique facility and I think that's a huge attraction for people in the community. There were various suggestions being put forward about the range of different activities you could take place within the various spaces.
Speaker 3:
6:05
Could you just outline some of them? It's almost endless. Um, but now it was down into a group of three or four key users, one as ongoing use of the community, holes for rentals by local groups, whether it's very, when he's a after school clubs, sports clubs, dance schools, wherever you have the former church space as an ongoing use as a ceremonial space. Weddings, funerals are celebrations and so on. A cafe, there's been a coffee operating successfully in the building previously and people would like to see that function retained but then also bringing in probably an additional level of performances, arts and cultural uses beyond what's taken place in the building before. The problem with the two holes has to do with installation. They get too hot in the summer, they get too cold in the winter. That's going to be a major part of the renovation, isn't it?
Speaker 3:
7:01
Installation of the holes is particularly important in terms of creating a sustainable property which is able to manage his energy costs. If we can keep the overheads down in that building, then it becomes easier to make it viable proposition and operate profitably. On a year to year basis. It's also a question of comfort. We don't want that you Ewing temperature. We want something that's stable and managed and controlled so that the space is attractive to as many users as possible. Isn't that going to be quite an expensive thing to do? Uh, it will have an expense and but it's expenditure that's potentially suitable for grant funding and addition of energy efficiency measures as something that our number of grant funders would look favorably upon. So it's not going to mean the community putting their hands from the in their pocket. I would say that from time to time the community will be asked to put its hands and its pockets to support the project.
Speaker 3:
7:58
We won't just be asking them to turn up and fill the holes. There may be financial contributions requested from time to time, whether or not that was one of them remains to be seen. Justin can, if fun can return to you. We have possibly sometime before the keys are handed over. How confident are you you going to be able to maintain the momentum within the community? Well, I think the community has the momentum and we're just acting that out for people and people are providing that kind of push and that's, she's had somebody coming up now with, you know, huge events, experience offering his insight and his suggestions and all the rest of it. I mean, people are turning up and really want this to happen. I think this is the place we get to that and the more we're going to have that kind of input, he will think that you have energy at the start of something and then it dwindles away.
Speaker 3:
8:42
My experience, it's quite the opposite. When you have an injury at the start, he's got like priming the pump. If you pour that water into and emptiness pumps, he says, do they've any way back in my day? Um, you know, you, you prime the pump, you make something start to happen and people want it. People gravitate towards it. So I think we'll be fine. I think we'll have a lot of energy from those. Yes. You used the analogy of a new route that fills up in the same way the community will. Well that's, that's the, the theory of rotors as you, you build roads and in theory it's to, to deal with traffic. In reality it creates traffic. You know, the more roads you build, the more traffic you have. That's, I mean there's a short period where you don't and then you do. When you create more community space, you create more community, create more energy and especially with the numbers increasing in 2,150 new homes being built in the next few years in and around Portobello.
Speaker 3:
9:25
But even without that, people's focus on the local here is very, very strong and, and that's only can only increase as we create more resourceful. So the next stage, the next stage as we hopefully get our APP second stage two application into the scourge land fund on the 2nd of December and we hopefully hear back from them by mid January or I think late January. And if we hear get good news from the intelligence and covering the cost of the purchase price by 85 90% then with pretty well close to getting there. I think we'll get the keys and the next one in the next six months, that's for sure. For six months, around six to eight. I mean that's what I'd go for. But it does depend on a good dialogue with the church. It depends on a very fruitful, positive dialogue where we can arrive at a very, you know, we don't have to go through the community right to buy process.
Speaker 3:
10:08
You know, it can be an amicable settlement between us with the lawyers appointed to make sure that there's a very clear, straightforward deal and agreements on both sides. And if that's, if that happens, if it's a productive creative possibilities, and it will be, because this, you know, just today portable on shopper churches allowed us to have this meeting here and that symbolizes where we are going forward. It turns. So there are going to be quite a lot of stories coming out with this particular project as time goes on. So Justin and, uh, Richard, thank you very much indeed. We'll probably be speaking to you again. Absolutely. Thanks a lot.