Half Year Update

Well we are just over 6 months into our financial year, so we thought a little update on the progress of all our projects was in order.

Key Theme 1 – Housing

We have received the housing report, a full copy of which will be available on the website soon, which contains information on:

  • The land availability, currently marketed or otherwise
  • An options appraisal for each area of identified land, detailing the potential of developing a range of both domestic and commercial properties
  • A report of funding opportunities for; land purchase, domestic and commercial property development and revenue costs of developing these.
  • An appraisal of the current and future employment needs of the main employment providers and their attitude towards supporting a housing project.
  • A comparative study of the current market values of a broad range of commercial and domestic properties on Westray, in Orkney and National
  • The delivery of and a report of community engagement exercises, exploring local people’s attitudes towards a housing development project
  • A report, including running costs, of organisations with the ability to manage the lettings and maintenance of the domestic and commercial properties
  • An exploration of emerging opportunities to link with any local and national projects, maximising the benefit of developing housing and commercial properties.
  • Identification of areas of land where the potential exists to use legislation to transfer ownership, for the purposes of building development, to the community

The Trust is considering a Housing Development Sub Group to consider the report and develop a funding plan to take this forward.

Ian Ricketts plans on attending the Rural Housing Conference this year and we will feed what he discovers back to you on his return.

Theme 2 – Industry and Business

The quarry proposal continues to take positive steps forward with an initial screening opinion being submitted to Orkney Islands Council. So far there have not been any previously considered issues that need to be addressed. We anticipate that a full planning application will be made within the next 3 months.

The trust has temporarily suspended its business loans policy to enable a thorough review of the policy and processes to take place. The gap between what the Trust could expect when investing an amount over a period of time, when compared with what the Trust could expect with the same amount over the same time period and at similar interest rates, is considerable. The Trust has to be able to justify that the gap is weighted more towards community benefit, over what could be perceived to be personal benefit. Currently we have no tangible way of assessing that benefit. We are therefore looking at two routes, first is to adapt our current grant scoring matrix to reflect the impact of the loans and the second is to work with a Business Graduate to develop a way of calculating social impact.

The Fruit and Vegetable growing project has been developing over the last 6 months with the Trust being awarded over £101,000 to assist with developing it. Planning permission was applied for in late November and considering that Papay erected the same type of greenhouse recently and that the community were expressing no concerns during the public consultation phases, we anticipated a problem free planning process. However, an objection was raised regarding privacy, noise and concerns that a private drive would be used to park cars, was received by the council. Attempts continue to see what can be done to overcome the concerns. If these concerns cannot be overcome then the application will go to committee on the 29th March. Unfortunately this would mean that the planned build of 20th March would have to be delayed and growing any produce this summer would be unlikely.

The Tourism Development project comes to an end after 2 years. There have been some mixed outcomes with equal amounts of successful developments and learning opportunities being identified. The project will leave us with a new website and hopefully a new venue booking system (which is proving surprisingly difficult to source), a brand new Westray guide, a study into the state of the adopted paths of Westray and a report on the potential opportunities that archaeological tourism could bring to the island.

Theme 3 Youth and Children

Planning for the Fund Raising Shop was submitted under the same application as the fruit and veg project, it occupying the same piece of land. It is therefore subject to potential delays, although we have the buildings ready to go and just need the ground developed to take them.

Following the remarkable donation from the pop-up cafe last year the Trust approved a budget to refurbish the interior of the Hofn’s main two rooms. Work has started with the kitchen area being remodelled and, new furniture and a new multi-use games table purchased. Thank you to all for putting up with all the upheaval during the work.

Theme 4 – Health and Care

The Trust approved a budget of £1000 to decorate the Chapel of Rest and work will commence shortly with volunteers from the Community Council and Trust to do the work.

The Home Help service continues to attract more users and more staff. It is hoped that the service will continue to grow for the community.

Work continues on exploring the possibility of developing some kind of facility or complex to support the vital and emergency services based on Westray.

Theme 5 – Environment

Nothing further to report on this Key Theme.

Theme 6 Recreation & Liesure and Voluntary Groups

The new financial year (July onwards) will see additional criteria being added to the grant assessment matrix. This will score the applications attempts (successful or otherwise) to secure or raise additional funding themselves prior to applying to the Trust. This is to ensure that the Trust does not undermine all the  hard work that the community groups and their fund raisers have  previously achieved.

Theme 7 – Transport

Nothing further to report on this Key Theme

Theme 8 – Education and Training

Early discussions are planned to explore what support could be provided to the school, above what is already in existence, to maximise the opportunities for learners and community members.

Other Areas

Through a competitive process, The Trust was matched with a senior Manager with the Bank of Scotland who will act as a Non-Executive Director of the board as part of a pilot scheme to support community groups. Already he has been able to give some guidance and steerage towards some subtle changes.

Broadband – remains a very emotive subject for those who don’t have good or indeed any access to broadband. We continue to liaise very closely with the authorities on this and have recently used our position to expedite the delays to getting broadband into the village. We are aware of other communities and specifically those in North West England who have developed the B4RN project,  providing super-fast broadband themselves. However, geography and the very nature that Westray is an island would have a huge bearing on anything being developed locally. However, we are keeping a listening watch on developments and will pursue any opportunities that present themselves.

Investments – recognising that the Trust needs to secure the future of the organisations and its activities, it has started to deposit money into a long-term investments strategy. Responding directly to comments about the ethical nature of some investment portfolios the Trust conducted a thorough assessment of the opportunities available that addressed the ethics raised by some members. We are glad to say that we identified that The Churches, Charities and Local Authorities group had an Ethical Investment Fund which had the potential to offer average annual returns of around 4% over the lifetime of the investment. With it meeting the criteria the board approved an initial investment of £750,000 to be deposited with an annual deposit to be taken from the income we receive from WRE Ltd.

Recruitment – The Trust has recently developed a new permanent post with the Trust for 16 hours per week as an Admin Assistant. We hope to be appointing the successful candidate in the very near future. We are also looking at recruiting two part-time gardening staff for the fruit and vegetable garden on a 2 year contract.

There are currently 5 vacancies in the trust board and we would welcome expressions of interest in joining the team. It is a particularly busy period of development and the whole team would welcome fresh eyes and input. If you want to know more about volunteering with the Trust in any way, please contact one of the directors or members of staff.

If there are any questions about this half yearly update, please don’t hesitate to contact the Trust Office.

Grant awards December 2013

I-pads for the Learning Centre:   the WDT board has approved the purchase of two I-pads and accessories up to a maximum of £850, for use in the Learning Centre and Digital Inclusion projects.  These will be a great help especially to the older people taking part in the two I-pad classes that are already going, and the the folk waiting for the new class to start in early 2014.

A business loan application that had been received by WDT has now been withdrawn by the applicant.

Training Grants:  Nine further requests for grants towards the NFU Farm Safety course were approved, making a total of 22 people (of the 24 attending) being eligible for and each receiving a £50 grant towards this very important course.

NFU farm safety course
NFU farm safety course

Getting online – free classes

The first two Ipad classes are well under way with great enthusiasm, so watch out for some bigger than usual requests for Christmas presents this year, or unexpected new Skype callers!

Classes will continue in 2014, with at least one new group starting.   These can cover a wide range of needs:

–          People completely new to using computers or going online

–          People wanting to learn how to use Ipads (which can be much easier for older folk or those with difficulties with their hands)

–          Anyone who isn’t confident about using the internet

The classes are very informal, go at your speed, and you can use whichever type of equipment suits you  (Ipads, laptops, or desktop computers).  You don’t have to have internet at home, and you don’t have to have your own computer or Ipad.

Contact Corinne on 07766 266656 or leave your name and phone number at the WDT office if you think you would like to know more, or know someone who would benefit or would like to have a taster session.

Local training opportunities

These are some of the courses in the pipeline for the new year:

A Business Start Up course  (likely the very end of February) – course content and dates and times are still flexible, so if you think you would like to take advantage of this free course please contact Corinne as soon as possible.  This may also be relevant to businesses who have already started but want some help putting together business plans for future development.  Cost: free.    Time:  one to 1.5 days

Basic work related courses:   for example Food Hygiene, First Aid, etc.   If there are 6 people needing to do any of the Orkney College Short Courses then these may be able to happen on Westray.  The new Learning Centre Coordinator will be contacting local businesses to find out what your training requirements are for the next year.

Evening self study group (for people doing ECDL or any distance learning).  This can start when the new internet connection and computers have arrived for the Learning Centre

Drop in sessions for Ipad learners and anyone needing help getting online

Other courses – contact the new WDT Learning Centre Coordinator to discuss (through the WDT office).   Things like SAGE accounting, manual handling, or recreational and leisure courses (genealogy online, digital photography, etc) have all been suggested already.

Learning Centre Coordinator

The Board have decided to advertise the post of learning centre coordinator which will be a one day per week post, on a self employed basis, for six months. This person will be responsible for ensuring the continued use of the learning centre and for assessing training needs on the island for both businesses and individuals.

Learning Centre – getting online

Janette Mackie from the Citizensonline  Get I T Together programme has been out to Westray again, and had some really great sessions with older members of the community.   Watch out for request for I-pads as Christmas presents this year – there will be an I-pad beginners course starting at the back end of October, as well as a beginners course for laptops or PCs.  Both of these will be very informal and you will learn what you want to know, at your own pace.  There is still time to sign up.  Contact Corinne at the trust office if you are interested, or watch out for notices.

We are still waiting for the 6 new computers  to be installed at the Learning Centre.  What is taking time is that we have to wait for OIC, UHI, and Orkney College to all coordinate on this, as the big news is that there will be wifi installed there – that means that folk will also be able to use their own laptops.

Also, if you live in social housing (OIC, or OHAL) and don’t have internet but want it,  let either Corinne or Janette (07788 395859) know, as there may be some assistance available.

Learning Centre – getting online

Janette Mackie from the citizensonline Get IT together project is coming back out to Westray on September 11th and 12th to help anyone who either wants to get online, or do more online.   There are also plans for more sessions later in the year, such as “doing your Christmas shopping online” and using Skype to keep in contact with family outwith Orkney.  Janette will be visiting the Auk club on 12th September as well to show people how they can use the latest technology.

During September there will also be a Learning Centre drop-in (for any help with training enquiries, computer use, getting online, etc) :

Wednesday 2.00 to 3.30 and Thursday 2.00 to 3.30 pm

New computers for the Learning Centre are expected to arrive soon, thanks to Orkney College, and there have been requests for an evening session for general computer learning.

Spring Online

Janette Mackie at Kalisgarth

Janette Mackie at KalisgarthJanette Mackie, the Get IT together coordinator for Orkney (a citizensonline project) is keen to involve Westray folk in a very informal learning to help people get the most out of the internet.  A number of opportunities have been planned for people to talk to her, and pick up new skills.  Kalisgarth residents had the chance to try using ipads to view photos, and secondary school students were keen to learn more about projects such as “Internet Rangers”.

More information about the BT sponsorship of this project can be found in this link

Learning Centre

A Westray Outreach Centre was established in Autumn 1998, with a local learning sub group meeting regularly from November 1999 and working towards establishing a dedicated space for the Outreach Centre.  Acute pressure of use on the school and community premises was requiring a constant juggling of resources and it was recognised that the facilities needed to be accessible and available when people wanted to use them.  Some of the other priorities for new premises included:

–       To ensure resources are adequate for projected levels of use

–       To provide a private video enabled interview space

–       To provide a quiet study space for students

–       To lower the threshold of accessibility and establish more regular opening times

–       To encourage an opportunity for users to progress and learn new skills

–       To create an ambient atmosphere and environment for all users.

This was all achieved when the Westray Healthy Living Centre opened in 2006 incorporating a learning centre and videoconference room.

Initially,  the Westray Outreach Centre was recognised as a UHI learning centre, and over the years has involved a partnership of various agencies including Orkney College, Orkney Enterprise (now Highlands & Islands Enterprise), OIC Education Department and Westray Development Trust.

In 2007 Westray Development Trust included the Learning Centre as one of its five key community development projects linked to the turbine project, to be funded by Big Lottery.  The additional funded hours (a further day per week) contributed to a big increase in both the use of the Learning Centre and the number of additional courses delivered locally, which had been the major priority.  The Big Lottery project ended in Mar 2010.