What is Community Asset Transfer?
Over the past several years legislation and national policy in Scotland has developed to encourage and support the ownership of assets (buildings and /or land) by communities. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015; The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003; a joint COSLA/Scottish Government Statement 2008 and a Community Empowerment Action Plan in 2009.
Further reading here on the legislation – https://dtascommunityownership.org.uk/community/community-asset-transfer/asset-transfer-policy-benefits/what-asset-transfer
Why is WHALE Arts talking about Community Asset Transfer just now?
WHALE Arts has been working in Wester Hailes for 28 years, since 1992. Originally based in the Blue Hut on the Murrayburn Greenway, WHALE Arts moved to the site we work from today. The WHALE Arts Centre was designed and built in the late 90’s and opened in 2000. The reason we are talking about Asset Transfer now is because although the community own the building, the land is owned by City of Edinburgh Council and leased to WHALE Arts. The original 25 year lease has only 4 years left, running until 2024. We could ask City of Edinburgh Council to extend the lease instead of bringing the land into community ownership, however the benefits of full community ownership are clear (see below), so we felt that now is a good time to explore Asset Transfer.
What are the benefits of Community Ownership?
Usually communities use Community Asset Transfer to bring buildings and land into community ownership to create a new physical base for the community to work and/or socialise from. However, because WHALE Arts already own the building at 30 Westburn Grove, and from this base deliver a broad range of creative and community activities the reasons for doing this are less about creating a new space for the community and more about sustaining and securing this for the future. The focus will be on developing the building and the garden with a view to creating new enterprise activity which will create jobs, training and business opportunities for local residents and skills and capacity development for local residents in learning about community ownership.
Further reading here on the benefits of Community Ownership – https://dtascommunityownership.org.uk/community/community-asset-transfer/asset-transfer-policy-benefits/benefits-community-ownership
What is the process, how long will this take?
We need to demonstrate why it’s important that the WHALE Arts Centre exists into the future and we need to show that the organisation can survive financially. In November 2020 WHALE Arts will submit a funding application to work with an expert on community consultation, business planning, and land valuation. If we are successful with this application we should have a new business plan by April 2021. During the summer 2021 we will work with the Members and the local community to take this to the next stage. The next stage will involve applying for funding to buy the land from City of Edinburgh Council, or have this transferred to us. So our hope is that this process will be complete by late 2021.
How can I get involved, find out more or feed my ideas in?
The Board are holding a Members session (on Zoom) on Thursday 15th October at 6pm. Any local residents who are not WHALE Arts Members are very welcome to come to the session as well. Please contact Leah Black for the zoom link and password (firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of the stipulations of Asset Transfer is that we change our governing document to limit our membership to local residents of Wester Hailes. Currently the majority of our 50+ Members are local but we can also accept non-local members. We are really interested in hearing from local residents who would like to be involved in the Asset Transfer and would like to become Members of WHALE Arts. Members have voting rights (voting in the board of trustees) and can come along to our Members Breakfasts to help shape WHALE Arts projects and activities.
We have also created a very short survey to connect with local residents who have an interest in being involved in the Asset Transfer and the development of WHALE Arts in 2021 and beyond – please access this here.
Who are the Board of WHALE Arts?
We have 11 Trustees currently, and in line with our governing document, the majority are local residents. They are:
Charlotte Binstead (local resident)
Eunice Main (local resident)
Emily Stevenson (local resident)
Grant Williams (Co-Chair)
Jade Jackson (local resident)
Kenneth Fowler (Co-Chair)
Ross Campbell (local resident)
Susan Gibson (local resident)