Re-use Hub in a long-term vacant building - New Cumnock Development Trust
This project is all about making a place – a place at the heart of New Cumnock; a Re-use Hub that operates as a viable social enterprise, that develops skills and creates sustainable jobs but is also a welcoming space where the community can come together to learn, share skills and socialise.
With their Re-use Hub, New Cumnock Development Trust are delivering on several themes from the local Regeneration Masterplan. They plan to bring new uses to one of the empty town centre buildings whilst creating economic and employability activity and raising awareness of carbon reduction.
Trotters Building sits prominently on the main street through New Cumnock. It was previously used as a department store but has been vacant and in worsening condition for over 20 years. Due to the building location within an area of flood risk, there are limitations on how the building can be reused. This combined with the estimated cost of capital works required to bring the building back into use, make it unlikely that the building will be viewed as a viable economic investment by private developers.
NCDT commissioned architects to complete an options appraisal and feasibility study. The options appraisal was undertaken in partnership with the community and reviewed the suitability of several empty buildings. The appraisal identified Trotters Building as the most suitable location for the Re-use Hub due to its size, location and proximity to a range of travel options. The feasibility study focussed on Trotters Building, including a building condition survey and valuation to develop understanding about how much work was required to make the building suitable for the proposed new use. The study identified significant damp and roof concerns, but not withstanding recommended that there was economical and heritage value in bringing this building back into use rather than building a new facility elsewhere. The capital works required to bring the building back into use are estimated at approximately £2m including VAT.
Business planning work for the Re-use Hub was completed in parallel with the feasibility study. Consultation workshops with the community gathered information about how the facility would operate, who would use it and what they would like to repair. The consultations led to a phased approach being recommended for the Re-use Hub.
Phase 1 will start smaller in rented space, learning what works in New Cumnock and growing the Re-use Hub organically. Simultaneously NCDT will work towards acquiring and developing Trotters Building, which NCDT plans to be its long-term permanent home as Phase 2.
NCDT are currently negotiating with the landowner, there is the option to utilise Community Right to Buy legislation but the first aim is to enter into a negotiated sale.
“We’ve taken a very structured approach to developing our project. This has been beneficial as it’s allowed us to think about how we tackle the issue of vacant and derelict buildings in New Cumnock more generally whilst tackling some of the socio-economic issues in the town.
We’ve made use of a range of tools (e.g. developing a masterplan to work from and the Community Impact Tool) which have helped us to strengthen our position and make sure the community’s voice is given as much strength as possible. By doing things step by step, we have built up the evidence that our project is robust and that although NCDT is a young organisation, we have a are credible plan. We hope that this will underpin future funding applications and successful use of the Community Right to Buy legislation if we need it. This approach has also led to wider stakeholders coming out in support of the project, which will be really helpful in making this project a success.
Of course there’s a downside to this approach too; as it’s process driven it can be quite dry. Maintaining momentum and keeping the community engaged are some of our biggest challenges.”
Funding & Resources
In 2020 the project joined the DTAS / Scottish Land Commission partnership project which assists community-led organisations bringing new uses to vacant and derelict land. This support complemented the already in place core staff team at NCDT.
The feasibility and business planning work was supported by the Scottish Land fund, who NCDT hopes will support the future acquisition of the building.
Phase 1 of the Re-use Hub is aimed to be set-up during 2021, with funding from the UK Community Renewal Fund pending a successful bid. The Re-use hub is planned to operate as a Social Enterprise, with employability funding support for the work placements it creates.