CGDT AGM Chairman’s Report for 2014-5: A Busy Year

On Sunday 13th the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust held its 6th AGM. The minutes are being drafted at the moment, and we have published the year’s accounts on the CGDT website, here. You’ll also find all the pertinent documents for our various projects, including things like the forest masterplan, our planning application for wind turbines and the original CADISPA report from 2007.

If you want an alternative view of proceedings, please visit blipfoto where one of our more well known residents has a photoblog under the name Feorlean.

As the trust’s chair I was privileged to deliver the following report:

First I want to begin with some thanks, beginning with Eamon King [our Forest Development Officer] who has persisted with the Stronafian Forest project, and created something really special with access, signage and a volunteer programme, among all the other tasks he so readily and professionally accomplishes. His presentation on Stronafian for the Community Woodlands Association Annual Conference was inspiring and inspired.

Stewart Miller and Charlie Collins have kicked off the Cowal Way project with great vigour, lots of humour and great professionalism, putting in place really substantial infrastructure, both physical and virtual, and for that I know the board is very grateful.

Both these projects are running on rails, and that is also due to the work and tenacity of Margaret Shields who has been superb across the board since she joined us earlier last year. Marg’s good sense, wide management experience and people skills have progressed our agenda more than I can say. Thank you all!

The board should also thank Sara MacLean, who completed the Greener ColGlen project to great plaudits from the funder and the community. Thank you Sara for delivering two highly successful and well-run projects for the Development Trust – we’re delighted that the Growers Group have taken over the polytunnels and are going from strength to strength – I know because I follow them on Facebook! We are delighted you have found a position in Kilfinan – just the right place for us to poach you back!

After the AGM Eamon and Charlie / Stewart will fill you in on their progress, so for my report I’ll concentrate on the other things the Trust has been working on.

Local Community Broadband is moving forward – we are now in the second stage of three, which will be implemented in the coming month or so and which will give commercial companies the opportunity to tender to supply broadband to the community (excepting those areas which will be covered by BTs NGBroadband). The Development Trust will be leading this project which will cover unconnected areas in ColGlen, North Bute and Tighnabruaich and Kilfinan. There’ll be public meetings when we know more of the detail.

As for the Clachan of Glendaruel and the hotel. We are awaiting approval for Development Funding to take this project forward. What we have in view is a community consultation, design and business planning stage to encapsulate what it is the clachan needs. Part of this will be to assess the Hotel’s suitability as a community and visitor hub – and the community’s views will be sought and inform the final recommendation of the consultants we’ll be commissioning to do the work. The opportunity here is not only to provide facilities we have missed since the hotel closed, but a visitor centre for the Cowal Way and Stronafian Forest …

Our renewables projects also deserve a mention here as well. The hydro project we were considering for the burns near Duiletter has been put on indefinite hold as the economic case did not stack up.  

And as you will have gathered we recently submitted a planning application for two turbines on the Forest. The application will go to committee shortly. We’re hopeful that the council will see that this project is one which will enable the trust and the community to take some significant strides forward over the next twenty years, strides which will make ColGlen more self-sustaining, more resilient to change and a better place to live with better services.

Of course the wind turbines will not deliver all of these outcomes by themselves, but if consented, and if built, our community will be significantly better off. I say ‘if’ because of course, planning consent notwithstanding, over the last week or so the UK government has dealt what many consider to be a mortal blow to new community windfarm projects like ours. We will look again at the figures if consent is given, and move forward only if this project looks viable at a level which will deliver significant long-term benefit to Colintraive and Glendaruel.

We have other projects which we hope to bring forward this year. Re-engaging with the idea of a pontoon or jetty is on the cards, particularly given the manifest success of the facility in Strachur.  We’ll be looking at the archaeology of Glendaruel, in particular as it relates to new finds in the forest. The ideas of crofting and woodlots have not vanished either, and are on the agenda, as are coordinated projects with Kilfinan Forest and Bute. We’ll report back when each becomes more solid, but in the meantime, you’ll find updated minutes on the hall boards every month, as well as all our publications and documents on our websites. We’re hoping to publish a quarterly report as well for general consumption in the community. Possibly this autumn / winter.

If it has crossed your mind in the last year to ask, what do they think they are doing? Or why haven’t they done that? Or just who do they think they are? Then perhaps you should consider using that desire for answers in a more structured way, and join the board. We have vacancies and we appreciate new questions – and ideas of course. The commitment is a meeting most months, with the possibility of more involvement if you wish.

Lastly, I want to pay tribute to all of the board who have worked tirelessly at their various responsibilities over the year – I’m not going to make special mention of anyone, except perhaps Jim who has been tireless – tireless – working with Stewart and Charlie on the Cowal Way. And Sandra obviously, who has delivered HR, Health and Safety and diligence to the paperwork side of board meetings. And Michael for his services to the publication of the newsletter *next year* as well as the Cowal Way. And John for his expertise in the automotive and high finance fields in particular. And Colin for pursuing the trust finances with proper and due diligence. And of course Alex without whom we wouldn’t have a clue what the council were up to … or why. 

With that done, and a hefty nod of appreciation to Bill Carlow who remains co-opted to the trust for renewables matters and whose acute sense of business has been highly valued, I’d finally like to thank you all for coming to the AGM and invite a few, but only a few, questions before we move on.

Thanks.

Midsummer Archaeology: surveying Colintraive & Glendaruel’s ancient monuments inc. Dunans!

Seems oddly appropriate that today volunteers from the Forest Archaeology Group spent several hours learning to and surveying artefacts in the landscape on the longest day of the year. We began with the war memorial to the twins McKirdy on Colintraive beach, taking innumerable photos of the tall, cruciform monument to their sacrifice during the first world war, and then with the ACCORD team producing a 3D model of the artefact using the PhotoScan software from AgriSoft. This process was extraordinary and we’ll post some pictures tomorrow of the result.

Continue reading Midsummer Archaeology: surveying Colintraive & Glendaruel’s ancient monuments inc. Dunans!

Community Windturbines for Colintraive & Glendaruel take a small step forward with CGDT

Last night at the presentation by CGDT’s consultants Locogen Ltd. in the Colintraive Village Hall,  those assembled moved that we  progress to the next stage of the process which will hopefully result in the construction of three wind turbines for the community on Stronafian Forest.

Over the next couple of weeks Locogen will finalise and submit a planning application for a Meteorological Mast on site in the forest to test the wind speeds available. The mast will provide the community a clear indication as to whether the development will be economically worthwhile. Alongside this the environmental and landscape impact surveys will continue, and the Development Trust board will report progress on the project in full at the AGM on the 20th July which of course the entire commuinty is invited to.

In the meantime, the trust will be publishing the presentation on the CGDT website shortly, along with an opportunity to ask questions both of the board and the consultants. We’re also happy to make presentations to any group in the community who want to know more.

As readers may remember, the development of a wind turbine was a key element of the Stronafian Forest Plan developed by the CGDT consultant Munro Gauld, and will provide for the longterm sustainability of our community. In his research for this project, CGDT director Bill Carlow has calculated that a single turbine will offset all electricity use in ColGlen entirely – that is reduce our carbon footprint to 0 tonnes for all household electricity.

Bill went further, and to offset all our energy use, including transport, business use and construction, we only require three turbines (our ideal solution for this project). In other words, for this community we can, in one fell swoop, cancel out all the carbon we emit as well as provide for an income which will ensure we are sustainable longterm.

Community Broadband in Colintraive & Glendaruel takes a step closer with decision to move to Phase 2

On Thursday night a meeting of over 50 residents of Colintraive and Glendaruel agreed to take the next step towards improving the parlous broadband provision in ColGlen. With Community Broadband Scotland’s help (ably represented by Campbell Cameron on the night) those present tasked the Development Trust to take the community into the feasibility phase of the process which began with a scoping study carried out over the last three months.

The Scoping study, available here, shows what we already knew – very few people achieve more than a .5MB connection on the present service. There is an appetite for a better level of connectivity and a frustration with the present service.

The meeting discussed what is happening at a national level, how we are placed in that, and when BT might get around to upgrading our service themselves. Once the feasibility study is in place the community can then make an informed decision as to whether we should move forward with our own project or await BT’s own provision sometime in 2016.

 

 

Panorama from Stronafian Community Forest to the blue afforested hills of Bute and Kilfinan

Today a group of directors with potential contractors visited the highest point in Stronafian Community Forest – of which a panorama above. We were nearly blown away by the ferocious April blast. But the views were terrific! The forests of Bute and Kilfinan in the blue distance to the south. Our forest closer at hand. Invigorating. A good reminder, as we sit at desk or in kitchen burrowing into the interweb,  of how we should get out more often into the heathery, blustery hills. Certainly there was lots of thigh strain, huff, puff and deep breathing – and that was getting out of the car.

By the way, this weekend we have the Bin Men in Colintraive Village Hall from 6pm onwards on Saturday, and there’s also the big archaeology weekend at the chambered cairn in the Forest. A great weekend to be in ColGlen. More accurate details here. And more photos soon!