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Vale of Leven Trust: Former Police Box Active Travel Hub

Alexandria has lower levels of physical activity in adults and higher than average mortality rates. Through a series of Place Standard Conversations, it became apparent that locals were interested in being able to travel more actively but often lacked the skills, equipment and confidence to get started. To overcome these issues, Vale of Leven Trust have set up an Active Travel Hub which will also provide volunteering and employment opportunities.

Background

The long-term home for the Hub will be the ‘Former Police Box’. This was identified as an ideal location in 2018, being long-term vacant and close to the National Cycle Network and it has since been brought into community ownership. The building is dilapidated and sits on a complicated small piece of land. Whilst plans for the building’s physical improvement are being developed, the Hub will operate from temporary base within the town.

Progress

An options appraisal identified the Former Police Box as the preferred site. The building was brought into community ownership through a Community Asset Transfer from West Dunbartonshire Council in 2020. The asset transfer process took 2 years with a peppercorn transfer price being agreed.

A feasibility study and building options appraisal is underway. To gain inform for the  foundation design and undertake a soil analysis on the previously industrial land, hand-dug trial pits have been required. This was a priority as contamination or unstable ground would have complicated the project, making it more expensive and less viable. Due to the level of dilapidation, demolition and an offsite manufactured rebuild is now proposed with consideration of how-to future proof the building for future organisation needs also part of the design process.

Construction is aimed for 2022, funding and planning dependant.

Key Learning

“The Active Travel Hub has been a journey of patience and perseverance from the idea in 2018 to completing the asset transfer in October 2020. This patience has been required from those actively involved in the Trust; our community and the then potential funders.  Everyone heard us talk about this idea and vision yet we had little to show in those first 2 years.  In hindsight,  longer term plans of concrete actions allocated to set people would have been beneficial. For example, following the Architects site visit in 2019 and the resulting Options Appraisal Report, we didn’t drill down into what unknowns we still had to get answers to. We now know that the further feasibility work could have been undertaken in tandem with the asset transfer and that there could have been funding opportunities out there to help us pay for them.  The input from the DTAS Vacant Land Manager (since late 2020)  has assisted us to focus and timeline our activities to enable forward motion.  If we repeat this we will:

  • Have a clearer list of what’s needed to be undertaken (with the input of the experts) and by whom;
  • Identify  seed money to pay for these early activities;
  • Recognise if the Council recommend the asset transfer that is the easy bit,  that takes time but don’t waste any more energy on that,  get on with the other stuff like planning how to use the building / what work will need done to it.”

Funding & Resources

The project is led by Vale of Leven Trust, a volunteer run charity. The Active Travel Hub set-up and activities have been funded for 3 years by the National Lottery Communities Fund. During this period, income generation from bike rentals will be developed into the business model to make the Hub financially sustainable in the long-term. The Hub’s activities will be delivered by 2 members of staff, supported by local volunteers. Grants from Energy Savings Trust and Cycling Friendly Communities Fund have allowed purchase of bikes, safety and storage equipment. A partnership of with Glasgow Caledonian University has been established to monitor and evaluate the projects outcomes and impact.

In 2020 the project joined the DTAS / Scottish Land Commission partnership project which assists community-led organisations bringing new uses to V&DL. This support, alongside local fundraising and a grant from West Dunbartonshire Council has progressed the plans for the building.

Find out more

Janice Ross – Chair                                              Karlene Doherty - Vacant & Derelict Land Project Manager        Vale of Leven Trust                                              DTA Scotland - www.dtascot.org.uk
Community Education Centre                            1B Washington Lane
Main Street, Alexandria, G83 0NU                      Edinburgh, EH11 2HA

https://www.facebook.com/valeofleventrust/