The Aald Skül
CDCN (Community Development Company of Nesting) began life in December 2015 with a public meeting, which was organised within the Nesting community to debate what was to be done to save the Aald Skül from potentially being sold by the Shetland Islands Council (SIC), who owned it at the time. As afore mentioned, the property was owned by the SIC and leased to the Nesting Local History Group (NLHG), but the property was falling into disrepair, and the SIC intimated that they could not justify the needed investment to restore, or arrest the decay of the buildings. The NLHG could not afford to fund the needed work either; so a new group, which was later named CDCN, was set up; the remit of which was to pursue all possible means to save the property for further community use. Apart from the history group’s base being there, the community also used some of the land as a burning site for the Nesting & Girlsta Up-Helly-Aa — it was thought highly desirable that this burning site should be retained.
So CDCN came to be born; with an initial membership that included members of every other group in the area, as well as various other interested people. Articles of Association were written, CDCN was set up as a company limited by guarantee, and CDCN was registered as a charity. A survey of the whole community was conducted, door to door, to gauge interest in various ideas as to what additional uses the property could be put to, and to garner fresh ideas.
Funding & Plans
A grant was secured from the Scottish Land Fund to pay for the preparation of a business plan. After a tendering process, we selected Community Enterprise Scotland to further research CDCN’s ideas, and write a business plan that could be used to attract further grant funding. We were very happy with the results; the business plan they wrote has served us well.
Another equally important use that the business plan was put to, was to make a case for acquiring the Aald Skül through Community Asset Transfer. Through that process we were able to get the whole of the buildings and land for a nominal sum (which ended up being agreed at £4), but Community Asset Transfer can only be successful if you can prove that your group can handle the running costs of the property through into the longer term. CDCN was the first group in Shetland to acquire a property by Community Asset Transfer. Ours was also the first case of Community Asset Transfer that the SIC handled; we were very happy with the thorough and professional manner in which the SIC negotiated this complex new legislation.
Our Initial Projects
While the afore-mentioned paperwork was ongoing, CDCN started running the Nesting Scrap-store. This brought in significant cash which could pay minor expenses, and be saved towards capital grant cash contributions. The Scrap-store has been highly successful, raising over £20,000 by the time of writing (August 2019). We intend to keep the Scrap-store running long-term, and we continue to improve it.
Another little project that CDCN organised and funded, during our first years, was the reinstatement of fallen headstones in both the cemetery at Garth and the one at Laxfirth. We did this to prove our commitment to improving the community, and to put some of the money we were earning back into the wider community.
We were able to gain tier two funding from the Scottish Land Fund—this went towards design expenses on preparing plans to have the buildings renovated, paying the associated planning fees, paying our first insurance bill, and providing a substantial amount towards a wage for a development officer.
Our Development Officer
Having cleared these first hurdles of acquiring the property, a good quality business plan and this additional grant funding, CDCN had significant momentum with which to press forward towards realising our short-term goals. During the winter of 2018 into 2019 we gained planning permission and a building warrant for our proposed renovations, we tendered the contract and selected our preferred contractor, and we applied for several grants to total over £200,000, which was to go towards paying for these works. It was a very busy winter, we also found time to recruit, through a rigorous process, our development officer; who is now well established and working towards future projects. By the spring we had won enough grant money, and we were ready to proceed with actual building work.
The building work is now underway and should be complete by Christmas 2019. But we are not resting on our laurels, we are pressing on—researching and developing new projects and fresh ideas—our story has only just begun—this is but the first chapter.