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Tomatin project will benefit community for 'years to come'

By Tom Ramage

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With many construction projects currently on hold, there is light at the end of the tunnel for community development projects as The Highland Council opens a new round of applications for the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

Developed in partnership with the Scottish Government, the fund has been running since 2014, helping to deliver locally developed regeneration projects for the benefit of communities, job creation and in building sustainable communities.

To date, the grant has been awarded to 12 projects throughout the Highlands and Islands. Many are completed or ongoing and include Midmills Creative Hub, which received a £1,200,000 grant; Armadale Redevelopment, with a £311,652 grant; Eigg Community Hub redevelopment, with a £1,200,000 grant; and Merkinch Welfare Hall, which received a grant of £200,127.

Strathdearn Community Developments Company received a £500,000 grant towards the £2.5million cost of a new community hub, alongside the refurbishment of the old hall into a community shop and restaurant.

The new complex is aimed to be multi-functional and for the benefit of the community for generations to come.

Completed in October 2019, ‘The Strathdearn’, as it has been named, is set in Tomatin. It consists of a spacious hall hosting a range of community groups and acting as a venue for events from weddings to community council meetings, conferences to concerts and ceilidhs to exhibitions and film screenings.

There are a number of other rooms for hire, as well as an office space, kitchen and covered sports area. The hub is also gearing up for the opening of the shop and restaurant.

The new hub aims to be the centrepiece of Strathdearn Community Developments Company’s vision for Tomatin. The plan is ever evolving as consultation with local wishes is an important part of developments, however the vision includes the creation of job opportunities, care at home for the vulnerable, affordable housing, improvement of facilities and services, and inward investment.

Tomatin’s location off the A9 provides numerous opportunities. By improving infrastructure and building ‘The Strathdearn’ brand, the company aims to attract tourists and encourage locals to stay in the community.

Complementing the creation of the hub, a number of projects have been identified for development over the short term. The village shop has been purchased to ensure an important service is maintained, a Care in the Community team has been formed to serve elderly and infirm residents, new walking paths have been developed and the overall attractiveness of the village has been improved with planters, benches, signage and a children’s play area.

Leader Councillor Margaret Davidson
Leader Councillor Margaret Davidson

Although physical developments in Tomatin were important, digital advances were also a key part of the project.

As well as installing Superfast Broadband to 83 houses with more to follow, the community aspect of the project continues online. A website and Facebook page provide updates on local groups, activities and events including ceilidhs, festivals and wedding fairs.

"There are always opportunities for the community to get-together and reasons to be proud of the village," said Charles Morgan, chief operating officer of Strathdearn Community Developments.

“Without the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, the Hub would simply not exist. Although as a community we have always had a strong bond, having a physical place to meet really makes a difference. It means we can come together as a community and get to know each other and support each other much better.”

Community groups and organisations interested in applying for Round 8 of the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund can submit an expression of interest form on The Highland Council website, which will be used to develop an application should they meet the relevant criteria.

Leader of the council Margaret Davidson said: “Since being introduced the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund has proved to be a very good stream of funding for projects supporting the growth of our communities. Highland applications have been successful and projects already completed or underway are making a real difference by creating jobs and boosting local economies.

“Strathdearn Community Developments Company is a great example of the possibilities available when a community comes together so well done to everyone involved. I am delighted that support is available for other fragile communities in the Highlands keen to tackle inequality and support inclusive growth. By working now to address inequality and support, we can secure the future of our region for years to come.”

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