Portpatrick Village Hall

What is the current position with Portpatrick Village Hall?

In November 2015 D&G Council called a public meeting to intimate that the Council sought interest from the Community for the management or asset transfer of the Village Hall.  Portpatrick Community Council organised two further pubic meeting to discuss the Hall. (26th January 2016 and 29th March 2017) and these are reported on the PCC web site.  The meeting of 29th March 2017 summarized the position.

D&G Council called a public meeting on Wednesday 18 November 2015 to discuss future of the hall. D&G Council seek a standardised agreement; also, being used as a vehicle for a full asset transfer.

26th January 2016 PCC called public meeting to discuss the way forward. A small Hall Group was set up to undertake due diligence and examine the financial feasibility of the community taking over either the management and or maintenance of the hall.

A small group of volunteers took on Hall keeper duties as a temporary arrangement from 1 July 2017.

Update – What has happened now?

The operation of the agreement was reviewed by D&G Council every 6 months.  At the last  review in November 2018.  D&G Council, intimated that this arrangement with Portpatrick is a special case and that other community halls are being transferred as management leases or asset transfers and that they would like to see the same situation with Portpatrick Hall as of early 2019.

In preparation for this review, the former Hall Group set up the corporate structure and registered a legal vehicle at Companies House ( Registration number No. SC 611849) in readiness to form PCDT.  However the Articles of Association do not permit  the founding directors to undertake any actions beyond seeking to recruit a quorum of members to formally establish the entity as a Community Development Trust.

This we did and having achieved the quorum, were able to call a meeting of founding members on the  26th March 2019. Two resolutions were unanimously agreed.

  1. To formally adopt the Articles of Association and so bring PCDT into being as a Community Development Trust.
  2. To form a Management Group and submit an Expression of Interest to Dumfries and Galloway Council with respect to Portpatrick Village Hall.

A stage 1 Expression of Interest was submitted  to D&G Council on 9th April 2019. This allows  us to open up a dialogue and address some of the issues raised in the report commissioned by PCC.

This application can be viewed on line at:  https://www.dumgal.gov.uk/article/16441/Community-asset-transfers

Anyone may make representations about this request to Dumfries and Galloway Council.  Representations must be in writing and include the name and address of the person making it. A copy of the representation will be sent to PCDT.

Representations must be made by 10 May 2019. They should be sent to

CommunityAssetTransfer@dumgal.gov.uk

What have PCC done?

PCC initially sought support from 3rd sector D&G to help with community consultation and obtain professional help with the legal aspects of taking over the Hall, while protecting Community interest.  This was too expensive.  We then sought help from an independent consultant “Here for Growth” who prepared a report. We also tried to get additional funds for public consultation, but this proved unsuccessful. PCC have also (unsuccessfully) sought engagement with the business community of Portpatrick.

You can get access to the minutes of meetings about the hall and the Here for Growth report from  Portpatrick Community Council.

What about directly setting up Community Organisation for dealing with the Hall?

The hall steering group sent out an enquiry to OSCR (the Scottish Charity Regulator) about the possibility of up a Community based organisation specifically for the hall but given the need for revenue and without a community development plan they directed us to “DTAS”.  DTAS advised that a Company Limited by Guarantee was the most suitable vehicle, at this stage, as this could set up by a small group be a Community Trust or converted to a SCIO or other forms of organisation at a later stage. It would only be converted if the community members thought that appropriate. This in turn would depend on the level of community involvement, documented definition of community needs and community development plan and identification of the level of financial support required. This would need to be documented in a well-developed prospectus for a SCIO or indeed for a BenCom.   As the existing hall group had neither the capacity nor capability to do this, we worked on the company model, with the aim of attracting community support and building the resource base of PCDT.

What is DTAS?

DTAS is a support organisation for development trusts.  It provides advice and support to help groups of individuals form development trusts. Its web site says this:

“Development trusts are part of Scotland’s fastest growing regeneration network. They are diverse in nature: large and small, rural and urban, mainland and island based. What development trusts all share in common however is a determination to see their community or neighbourhood flourish, through community-led activity, partnership working and enterprise.”

DTAS advised that the correct order was to set up the company using their model articles of association so that these are defined. Then embark on recruiting interested members of the community as members. A Trust would be formed when the minimum numbers of members have joined together.

What is the minimum number of members to form a Community Development Trust?

This is defined in the articles of association. Following the DTAS model it is 20 members of whom at least 15 must be full voting Members.  Dumfries and Galloway Council also require at least 20 members as “Community Transfer Body” in accordance with the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

You can read the guidance here:

Scottish Government Guidance

Why do you think we need a Portpatrick Community Development Trust?

The founding members think that there are four reasons:

At this stage the hall group consider that the hall is at risk. If D&G Council in this current review cannot see any progress towards an entity as required by the agreement with PCC, then there is a risk that they may consider that after 3 years that a management lease or asset transfer to a Community group is unlikely and will then have to decide what their action will be. Given that we have been told that there is no budget from 1st January 2019 then we consider that the Village Hall is at risk.

The existing hall group are volunteers and may stop volunteering and abandon the enterprise at any stage. In which case the responsibility (at least in the short term) reverts to the PCC. This is of necessity an interim measure as the PCC  are not an incorporated body and cannot undertake a management lease or asset transfer.

Management of the hall, (even just servicing the existing service level agreement) is not a statutory function of a Community Council. Moreover, the Community Council itself is at risk and could be disestablished due to member resignations or other reasons. The PCC does however have a role as conduit between the community and D&G council.

In searching for funds to support public consultation and assistance with due diligence etc, for the Hall, the Hall Group became aware of many other potential opportunities for community enterprise and ways to bring in community development to support the Village Hall and to obtain professional support for a community development plan. None of these were available to volunteers under the service level agreement.

Why can’t the Portpatrick Community Council just do all this?

The capacity of the existing PCC is severely limited. The statutory purposes of Community Councils established under the Scheme are set out in Section 51(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 as follows:

‘’In addition to any other purpose which a Community Council may pursue, the general purpose of a Community Council shall be to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which those authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable’’.

The PCC meetings have a number of issues to deal with and the PCC meetings are an unsuitable vehicle for dealing with the complexity of piloting community ownership of a Hall or indeed developing any specific project.  The PCC can however (within its capability and resources) promote community engagement and support community ownership provided this does not conflict with its statutory purpose.

Is the proposed PCDT just going to take over Portpatrick Hall?

PCDT has been formed with a wide range of objectives see below.  In the first instance the founders had to obtain the minimum number of members. A Community Trust is intrinsically a democratic organisation and it is the members who will decide on development priorities.  Among the objectives agreed by the members are :

To promote community ownership of Portpatrick Community Hall and other buildings, to provide facilities for childcare, community learning, healthy living initiatives, educational and cultural activities, training activities, leisure pursuits and accommodation for community groups.”

To promote community ownership of community energy projects, community land and associated assets for the benefit of the Community.

 To promote or assist in the promotion of galas, festivals and community events for the benefit of the Community, visitors and the public in general.

 Secure the maximum amount of external funding to achieve objectives.

Work with and assist other organisations in Portpatrick and District.

What does “Promotion of Community Ownership of the Hall” in the above mean?

Simply that “promotion of ownership. The EoI allows us to open up a dialogue with D&G Council with the objective of developing a plan for asset transfer to the community.   In stage 1 we have declared that our preference is for a 2 year management lease leading to full asset transfer.  The form that this asset transfer takes will be developed in stage 2 of the application process, should our stage 1 Express of Interest be accepted. 

You can read about the application process on the D&G web site https://www.dumgal.gov.uk/article/16441/Community-asset-transfers

As a Community Development Trust we will be able to secure funding to employ professional assistance for due diligence and to develop robust business plan.

We will also be able to promote various activities based in the hall to attract more revenue to the hall.

PCDT as an incorporated body will also able to obtain funding / support for a wide range of other community-based enterprises or activities and be able to secure professional assistance for robust community consultation – if that is what the members resolve to do.

Now that the Trust is formed, are we stuck with the founding directors?

The short answer is no.  The directors of a community-based company are elected by its members. The founding directors are just that, those who have founded the company. Their role is to define the objectives and provide a vehicle for members of the community to join.

The founding directors do not have any more say than any other members. At the first general meeting of members (under the articles of association at least three of the existing five founding directors must stand down, although they are eligible for re-election), with similar rules for each AGM. Although the articles of association of the PCDT allows for up to 18 months before the first AGM, the founding directors have all resolved to stand down for re-election at the first general meeting of members.

When will this first general meeting be?

We do not have a date for it.  It will be after the initial public invitation for applications for membership and before any decision on how any asset transfer of the Hall into Community Ownership will take place. (That is before submitting a full Stage 2 application).

Why didn’t the Hall Group do more Community Consultation in the past 18 months of the service level agreement?

This is a good question.  In the first instance it was unreasonable to expect the volunteers of the small Hall Group to embark on an open-ended consultation exercise without support. This would need to have been in addition to all the other activities the Group were doing to service the agreement such as setting up the booking system, manning the hall, cleaning, and painting.

Secondly, there is very little to say until the group had something to put on the table. We are only now just at the stage of  inviting wider community support.

Why didn’t the PCC itself do more Community Consultation about the hall in the 18 months of the service level agreement?

For similar reasons. The PCC has limited capacity and resources and has to deal with its statutory functions.  The other sub-groups of the PCC have other priorities such as repairs, communications and planning, festivities, grant funds and planters.  Secondly, anytime the hall was on the agenda the same questions would be asked concerning the practicalities of full asset transfer many of which are still not resolved and there was nothing to say.  When the hall group suggested that a Trust was the way forward the PCC resolved to have a public meeting in January 2019.  This was superseded by the community request for an EGM to discuss the hall on the 12th December 2018 and subsequent actions

Why should I join PCDT?

Joining as a member of PCDT is a way of influencing and supporting PCDT aims and work – to make Portpatrick and the surrounding area of the Rhins a better place for residents, business and visitors alike.

As a Full member you will have:

  • Information about the Trust’s activities
  • Opportunities to influence what is being planned
  • Opportunities to contribute to the events and projects
  • Vote at Trust General Meetings
  • Opportunity to elect or be elected as a Director of the PCDT