Regeneration project to reinvigorate rural Dumfries and Galloway communities

Published:  4 February 2022

A £1.6million housing and community hub re-development project is expected to help re-generate two rural Dumfries and Galloway villages, following significant additional support from South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE).

Glentrool and Bargrennan Community Trust (GBCT) have received over £280,000 of funding from us to help develop more affordable and sustainable housing in the area. The funding will also support the development of a newly created community hub which will provide over 100 social and educational opportunities for younger and older people.

At present, the remote rural villages, set in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere in Galloway Forest and Dark Skies Park, consist of only 54 homes and an ageing population of just 100 people – and work was required to ensure current residents remain in the area.

In 2010, GBCT was formed to take over the running of the community’s only facility – a school, and turn it into a community centre, now called The Hive.

The Hive has been supported by Dumfries and Galloway Council (DGC), the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund and four other funders, enabling them to increase their event space, upgrade their craft gallery and retail space and build a fully accessible four bed self-catering accommodation in the old school building.

We have now provided over £101,000 of funding to finalise the refurbishment of the Hive – which will give up to 30 people access to a range of activities and provide a regular calendar of social events to reduce isolation within the community.

The facility will be available for youth groups to provide overnight residential accommodation to enable outdoor activity weekends in the Galloway Forest, and planned events delivered by the Biosphere Experience Guides and Forest Rangers will also be used to attract visitors.

It is expected to provide 20 local people with volunteering opportunities, 30 older people access to monthly social interactions and 30 young people the opportunity to learn about local heritage and environment.

As part of further developments, GBCT has now purchased three 3-bedroom houses from a housing association, which were previously deemed unviable for development due to the investment necessary to upgrade the efficiency of the buildings.

While funding was already in place to purchase and renovate the houses - construction costs began to increase. As a result, we contributed £179,000 of funding to help cover the extra costs.

We provided match funding for renovation works, heat pumps and additional insulation to the houses - significantly reducing the running costs for tenants, while also helping the South of Scotland’s transition to Net Zero.

Development of this work was a partnership approach with DGC, SOSE and the South of Scotland Community Housing.

The houses will provide high quality and affordable accommodation - and the rent received from tenants will generate revenue to support wider community projects including the operational costs for The Hive.

Meta Maltman, Chairman of Glentrool and Bargrennan Community Trust, said:

“Despite the generous support of our other funders, it seemed that our total budget would not stretch to cover some important features that we aspired to include in our project – particularly insulated cladding over the whole Hive building and heat pumps for the houses.

“Thanks to the SOSE grant, we are now able to restore these elements, along with other improvements that will greatly enhance the energy efficiency and visual appeal of the properties themselves. 

“We will now have an eye-catching centrepiece for Glentrool village and a springboard for future community regeneration. We are delighted.”

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, SOSE Chair, said:

“We are very pleased that we have been able to support Glentrool and Bargrennan Community Trust with their plans to make their villages more vibrant, sustainable and self-sufficient.

“This is a great example of a project which shows how working together can deliver a range of positive outcomes for communities which in turn supports the economy as well as the transition to net zero. This aligns well with the intentions of the Scottish Government’s anticipated 10-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

“We are always looking for new ways to promote the South of Scotland as a great place to live, work and visit - and both projects will be crucial to encouraging locals to stay in the area, as well as attracting new people to the villages.

Sharon Ogilvie, Community Development Advisor at SOSE, added:

“I have been incredibly impressed with the thoroughness, professionalism and dedication that the Trust has demonstrated in making this ambitious project work and in developing a legacy for their community.”

Councillor Archie Dryburgh, Housing Convenor for DGC, said:

“I am delighted to see this project progress. It will support much needed affordable housing in rural Dumfries and Galloway.

“The Council aims to help retain our working age population, and providing high quality homes is key to enabling people to stay in Dumfries and Galloway. Glentrool and Bargrennan Community Trust deserve praise for their work.

“As Housing Convenor, I am also proud to see that the objectives of the Council’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan continue to be delivered throughout the region.

“Working alongside South of Scotland Community Housing, we have supported the group to buy these homes following a successful application to the Rural Housing Fund.

“Housing plays a key role in sustaining our rural areas and this project highlights our commitment to support local communities to deliver their aspirations.

“The developments will hopefully make the community stronger and more resilient, as well as giving it a means to generate its own income to reinvest into its long-term future.”