The community of Huntly and District established Huntly Development Trust (HDT) in 2009 as a follow up to the Aberdeenshire Towns Partnership initiative in the town. Since then, HDT has evolved through a number of stages into the organisation it is today. The overview provided below gives a flavour of the journey we have been on and a look ahead to the next phase of our adventures. It does not by any means adequately reflect the number of hours of effort or drops of perspiration expended by the community over this period but we think it has been worthwhile – so far!
Aberdeenshire Towns Partnership
Huntly Development Trust (HDT) has its roots in the work of the Aberdeenshire Towns Partnership (ATP) in Huntly. ATP was an alliance of three public sector partners – Communities Scotland, Scottish Enterprise Grampian and Aberdeenshire Council. The ATP programme pooled the resources of these partners to match community aspirations to help participant towns become better places to live, work and visit. Between 2005 and the end of the ATP programme in 2008, ATP Huntly helped community groups carry out many different projects to improve the town, in line with the community’s 2020 vision for Huntly and its related action plan. These included projects to develop the town economy, improve the area’s environment, celebrate and promote the town’s rich heritage and culture and build community capacity. Examples include supporting the establishment of the Huntly Farmers Market, the Huntly Rewards card scheme, producing the Huntly Handbook, developing the www.huntly.net website, funding part of the Huntly Shop Enhancement Scheme and promoting George MacDonald.
In late 2007 it became clear that changes at national level meant that the ATP programme would end in December 2008. In summer 2008, ATP Huntly consulted the community on its aspirations for life post-ATP. The result was overwhelming support for continuation of Huntly and District-focused development work through establishment of a community-led organisation to follow up the work of ATP. Priority projects also emerged, such as regeneration of the town centre – particularly Huntly’s retail sector.
After that, a group of active community members worked to establish Huntly Development Trust (HDT). They organised fact-finding visits, hosted facilitated workshops to learn how to best to set up such an organisation and arranged open community sessions to decide on priority projects. We enjoyed great support from both Aberdeenshire Council and the Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS) in this process. A key lesson learned from others was the need to acquire an income-generating asset to reduce dependency on grant-funding.
A major milestone was the decision in October 2008 by Aberdeenshire Council to offer HDT financial support until March 2011 (later extended to March 2012). On the back of that commitment, HDT also succeeded in securing European LEADER, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and Planning Gain support to help it deliver its first portfolio of projects.
HDT Project Activities 2009-12: ‘the LEADER period’
The portfolio of projects HDT delivered between July 2009 and March 2012 with the aid of Aberdeenshire Council, European LEADER, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and Planning Gain is structured under six key themes:
- Developing Our Infrastructure
- Develop Huntly’s online presence
- Improve town gateways, signage & interpretation
- Developing Our Economy
- Investigate feasibility, acquisition and development of a Huntly Hub
- Investigate feasibility of small workshop unit development for local businesses
- Develop and coordinate holiday, skills and sports activity packages
- Investigate opportunities to develop the Huntly retail sector
- Strengthening Our Society
- Undertake mapping/identification of social support needs
- Advancing Our Culture And Heritage
- Draw up a town marketing plan
- Promoting Sport In Our Community
- Develop cycling in and around Huntly
- Develop walking in and around Huntly
- Investigate the feasibility of building a bunkhouse
- Improving Our Environment
- Draw up a town sustainability plan
- Investigate opportunities for recycling services
Other projects not in the plan but with which we were involved include administering the Huntly Flood Appeal Fund, supporting a series of summer ceilidhs in the Stewart’s Hall, organising the Huntly Homecoming Mini-Tattoo, developing the Bogie Bugle events flyer and bringing the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention to Huntly.
One of the conditions attached to the funding obtained by HDT in 2009 was that we used the time and funding wisely to move towards becoming financially independent. As a result, many of the projects in the 2009-12 period were aimed at finding out which, if any, of the projects could help HDT become financially self-sustaining, as well as delivering the outcomes that the community had asked for during community consultations.
During 2010, HDT decided that the best way to achieve financial self-sufficiency was to develop its own renewable energy projects. Inspired by other communities across Scotland, like Fintry, Gigha, Westray and more locally, Udny, HDT set about developing its own community wind turbine. The lessons from elsewhere are that this can transform a community through the income, pride and skills generated by the project. More information on case studies can be obtained from Community Energy Scotland. www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk.
Over the last two years we have been working on various opportunities. At present, HDT has three renewable energy projects in the pipeline:
- A proposed single turbine extension to Dummuies Wind Farm
- A virtual turbine within the nine turbine Cairnborrow Wind Farm
- A microhydro scheme on the River Bogie
If either or both of the wind turbine projects goes ahead they will generate significant benefits for our community at a time when public funding is going to become increasingly difficult to obtain. The microhydro scheme will not be a money-spinner but will provide all kinds of heritage, education and potentially visitor benefits by making a link to Huntly’s past when our town used to be a centre of water-powered industry. At one time, 20% of Scotland’s linen came from Huntly!
In early 2012, HDT entered into an innovative partnership with Grampian Housing Association. GHA will invest in HDT’s core costs until at least 2014 in order to help HDT develop its renewable portfolio, in which GHA will have a share. The two organisations will also explore new renewables opportunities together. The income generated will be invested jointly by the partners in a shared regeneration plan for the AB54 area.