As the Northern gateway to the Cairngorms National Park, Tomintoul and Glenlivet is a unique and particularly rural part of Moray with a rich and varied heritage. Most of the land is owned by the Glenlivet Estate, which is part of the Crown Estate holdings in Scotland. Tomintoul, dubbed ‘Highest Village in the Highlands’, has approximately 350 residents and is situated at a height of 1164 ft.
A long period of steady economic decline and the rapid closure (or threat of closure) of a number of key economic assets in Tomintoul and Glenlivet, including two of the main hotels, led to calls from local residents and businesses for some form of positive intervention to identify issues and opportunities for the area going forward.
In 2010 the ‘Transform Team’, comprising public, private and third sector partners, was established and a budget was identified to bring in local consultants to support the development of a Regeneration Strategy and Action Plan.
Following significant, long-term and ongoing community engagement – with community representatives and organisations taking a lead role in many aspects of planning and delivery – the Regeneration Strategy was produced in 2012, with aims "to create the conditions for a flourishing relationship between people and the land, with the community able to meet more of its daily living and working needs locally".
The strategy’s two main priorities were the establishment of a development trust to act as the key community-led body in taking forward projects and initiatives; and the establishment of a Landscape Partnership funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust (TGDT) was established in May 2012 to take forward the opportunities identified by the Regeneration Strategy.
TGDT has a volunteer board of directors, comprising local residents and business people. In addition to this, it has over 320 members, which includes a large proportion of local residents and others with an interest in the area.
HIE provided support towards the recruitment of a Local Development Officer (LDO) to help drive forward the projects and also a Business Development Manager to grow the trading subsidiary and develop a new business proposition.
"HIE’s support has been fundamental to the success of the development trust and delivery of the regeneration strategy. Financial support and account management has allowed the Trust to deliver a number of key projects. The moral support provided by HIE’s Strengthening Communities team and other partners has helped us through some challenging periods and given the Trust and its staff and directors the confidence to play the role of lead community anchor organisation."
Oliver Giles, Local Development Officer (pictured above, right)
"Businesses within the local area have benefited from HIE’s support. Not only has HIE helped with funding but they are there if needed to provide support and advice. The range of events and training provided for local business is essential and I will be using these over the coming year. As with most things the more you put in the more you will get out."
Justin Livesey, Business Development Manager (pictured above, left)
With an LDO in post, TGDT began leading on a number of initiatives and projects, which were originally identified in the Regeneration Strategy. For example, the development of the Rock ‘n’ Road Cycling Festival - a weekend celebration of cycling attracting over 300 competitors to Tomintoul - and the 25-bed independent Smugglers Hostel.
TGDT has also worked in partnership with Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival to extend the Festival’s reach with TGDT delivering successful and popular events. These events are reliant on a significant amount of volunteer time and skills, and TGDT is keen to engage with more members of the community to continue developing new events for the area.
Aside from the work of TGDT, the Community Associations and other bodies also organise events such as 'Tea in the Park' and the famous Tomintoul Highland Games. Both of these initiatives and others like it are only possible through the dedication of local volunteers.
A landscape partnership is a scheme led by a partnership of local, regional and national interests which aims to conserve areas of distinctive landscape character.
The Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was established in 2013 with Cairngorms National Park Authority as the lead partner, supported by a broad range of local individuals and agencies, including TGDT, HIE, Speyside Fisheries Board, Crown Estate, Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).
Now into its implementation phase, one of the main successes of the Landscape Partnership has been in generating volunteer input into the planning and development of the proposed projects. More than 50 volunteers have supported a wide range of projects so far, which include new wildlife groups, conservation events, oral history and bird surveys.
The Regeneration Project, initially established to support socio-economic recovery in the Tomintoul and Glenlivet area, has produced many positive impacts, both direct and indirect.
The Tomintoul Museum and Visitor Information Centre was threatened with closure, but in August 2016 a successful community asset transfer application to Moray Council was completed. The redevelopment of this community asset into a Discovery Centre for residents and visitors is a key part of the Landscape Partnership project.
The Smugglers Hostel was also subject to a successful community asset transfer from Moray Council in August 2016. The Hostel has seen significant investment over the last few years and has created three additional jobs in the village.
The Trust has developed a long-term business plan for the hostel which provides for the employment of a professional team, along with investment in upgrading the facilities.
In addition, the establishment of the Glenlivet Mountain Bike Trails, through the Crown Estate, has brought around 12,000 people to the Tomintoul and Glenlivet area in its first year, providing significant benefits to local businesses; and two of the main hotels in Tomintoul have reopened.
In recognition of the Trust’s ambition and vision, the Tomintoul & Glenlivet Regeneration Project won the 2016 SURF Award for Community Led Regeneration.
One of the key challenges for the regeneration of Tomintoul and Glenlivet is the long term financial and social sustainability of the area.
TGDT receives tailored support and expertise from Fiona Robb, one of HIE’s locally-based account managers and Head of Strengthening Communities in Moray, supported by colleagues in HIE’s Community Assets and Community Growth Teams. Fiona assists with developing independent income streams to secure a long term future for the Development Trust. "I’ve really enjoyed working with TGDT and it’s been great to see both the Trust and the trading company develop and grow to generate income and provide valuable services in the local community."
TGDT is now exploring a number of options, ranging from renewable energy and consultancy, to additional asset management, as part of their plans to increase profitability and ultimate sustainability.