A small but ambitious Highland community nestled in the heart of the UK's largest national park is coming together to drive forward its own economic future.
Businesses and residents of the Tomintoul and Glenlivet area of the Cairngorms National Park, which has a population of around one thousand, have established a new trust to help the communities realise their aspirations and the area's real potential.
Over 200 members have signed up for the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust (TGDT). They will tackle a range of opportunities and challenges in the area including how to counter local hotel closures, and redevelop local facilities, boost tourism, and improve transport and telecommunications links.
With the support of organisations such the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Crown Estate and Moray Council to name just a few, the TGDT is now a registered company and charity with eight directors forming the Board.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead said: "The establishment of the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust is great news for the area and a fantastic opportunity to boost tourism and improve infrastructure within the community. The Scottish Government is very supportive of strong communities who come together to realise their potential."
Chairman of TGDT John Shewan said: "We are delighted with the response from residents and business to the setting up of the Development Trust and our first task is to employ a Development Officer to help us take forward a variety of projects aimed at breathing new life into the area. This full-time post will be advertised over the next few weeks. The directors know that the task they have been given will not be easy but with the backing of the community and the right Development Officer we have a great chance to make a huge difference."
The TGDT is supported financially by the CNPA, HIE and Moray Council with each agency contributing approximately £15,000 each year for three years. In addition, the Crown Estate is donating office accommodation for the new Development Officer which amounts to an 'in-kind' contribution of around £18,000 over three years.
The TGDT has come about as a result of the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Regeneration Project, which came up with a strategy and action plan for the area. Within this, it was identified there was a need to set up a development trust so that the communities were in a better position to access financial backing and other forms of support from key agencies.
Convener of the CNPA, David Green said: "The Tomintoul and Glenlivet area is very important to the Cairngorms National Park contributing to its special qualities in terms of the rich environment and cultural heritage of these communities and for recreation. With support from a variety of partners, I'm positive that the Development Trust can bring to fruition some good projects and strategies which will provide long-term economic benefits for the area."
Fiona Robb, of HIE, commented: "There has been a tremendous response from local residents and businesses who want to develop and promote this community. HIE is now supporting over 50 areas across the Highlands and Islands with this development officer model. We are seeing real results where they count - in improving sustainability in some of our most rural locations and developing the assets which local people identify themselves as providing opportunities."
Chair of Moray Council's Economic Development Committee and a local councillor Fiona Murdoch said: "I am delighted that the communities of Tomintoul and Glenlivet have got behind the regeneration project with so much enthusiasm. With the support of a development officer we will be able to turn some of the great ideas that have come up through a series of public meetings into reality, and stimulate a new lease of life for these communities."
Some of the projects identified as being a priority for the TGDT are developing threatened buildings to make them sustainable, providing adequate and wide ranging accommodation for visitors, improving infrastructure and communications, supporting rural training and improving social amenity and the natural wellbeing of the area.
When recruited, the new Development Officer will be tasked with producing a comprehensive "Growth Plan' for the area, which takes into account the community's vision for the next five years, and will use this vision to establish priorities for development in order to develop business plans and funding proposals for the projects identified as priorities within the regeneration plan, in conjunction with the community.
About Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003. It is the UK's largest national park at 4,528sq km The Park has four aims: to conserve and enhance the area's natural and cultural heritage: promote sustainable use of the Park's natural resources; promoting understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Park (including recreation); and to promote sustainable economic and social development of local communities.
About the Cairngorm National Park Authority
The CNPA was set up to ensure that the unique aspects of the Cairngorms - both the natural environment and the local communities - are cared for, sustained and enhanced for current and future generations to enjoy. The CNPA is designed to be an 'enabling' organisation promoting partnership and giving leadership to all those involved in the Cairngorms.