Community Hub – works start

Work has started on the new £2m Community Hub in Gorebridge, Midlothian!

After six years of brain storming, planning, consultations and negotiations with all the stakeholders we have finally arrived. There have been many set backs along the way mainly due to timing. We embarked on our, possibly over ambitious, project early in 2008 when funders were queuing up at the door, and we all know what happened in Autumn 2008.

Gorebridge is a fairly deprived ex-mining town in the heart of Midlothian. At its centre is an attractive Georgian high street that is being eroded by the steady conversion of non-profitable shops into housing and neglect.

The impetus for Gorebridge Community Development Trust, of which I am now the chairman, was the closure of Greenhall, the old high school and only community building in Gorebridge. This was just before Midlothian Council announced that a further 5,000 homes were to be built in Gorebridge. Despite the doubling of its population, no new facilities were planned.

I joined the Trust to act as architectural advisor. We secured a grant from the Big Lottery to carry out a feasibility study. At this stage we had already decided that the new building should be further up the high street next to the parish church, a primary school, the library and leisure centre. We envisage the four buildings working together, and becoming the new heart of the town.

The Hub will include a large hall that can be divided into three smaller ones, a cafe, soft play and 5 offices as well as the Trust’s office. The offices will be let to social enterprises, charities or start-up businesses at reduced rates. The hall is immediately adjacent to the church and I imagine will be a popular venue for wedding parties.

I have just returned from a two day SEDA (Scottish Ecological Design Association) conference about communities and realise both how much we have achieved and the enormous task still ahead of us. In a sense, getting the building to this stage and built is the easy part (although it’s hard to recognise that now). Even a new, state-of-the-art building does not guarantee footfall through the door once opened. The fantastic conversion of Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy is an extremely good renovation of the 1930s cinema but after one year they have already changed manager once and chefs three times. Hopefully now things are beginning to turn around for them, but they are not unique. There are plenty of models of community buildings that have been built but are not achieving their potential.

Luckily in our Trust we are ably assisted by some dedicated staff and board members who will be addressing the realisation of our business plan over the next year. It is no small task and they are beginning with some imaginative forms of consultation including film making and away day trips, making me realise how inadequate our original community consultations now were, although thorough and broad.

I am confident that we will be successful. That Gorebridge Community Hub will become the much needed, thriving new centre of the town. I have learnt that we are not the only ones doing this and the more we speak to and learn from others the more likely we are to succeed.

We hope to open for business in June 2015!

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