Often the biggest steps are the invisible ones, especially with regards to renovation projects like the one we have undertaken at Dunans. Today we took one such step.
For weeks now we have been waiting for our case officer from the Scottish Rural Development Fund to adjudicate on our statement of interest with regard to our plans for Dunans Castle and Grounds. I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with the process, but have held my peace, and today my patience has proved worthwhile. We have been given an ‘Amber’ rating.
Hurrah? I hear you query!
An explanation is needed. The way it works is this: if the project you are suggesting is not worth the candle, your dear old case officer gives it a ‘Red’ rating, ie. go now further guv’nor. You can still progress the project, but you’ll be very unlikely to get the final funding nod. If the project you are suggesting is, on balance, worth pursuing, he’ll give you a coveted ‘Amber’. This means you can proceed, but (and its probably a big ‘but’) you are not guaranteed success. What about ‘Green’? Well, confusingly they don’t do ‘Green’.
So, we have passed stage one of a two stage process. The next stage is the detailed one, where things are examined in great and assiduous detail. This means business plans, feasibility studies, quotes, estimates, project outlines and the full financial analysis malarkey. We think this part of the process will take around three months, all things considered, so we’re looking for some sort of decision by the middle of the year.
And now of course, you’re asking, “Well, what is it that you are asking funding for?” Here’s the ‘Statement of Interest’ as submitted before Christmas (and therefore the dates at the end will change no doubt). In it you will see how the Laird Project and our partnership with Gift Republic are key elements of our justification for funding, as well as part of the overall project.
Who? Dunans Castle Ltd. operates as a social enterprise and at present works to maintain and improve Dunans Castle and its grounds through a gift business scottishlaird.com. Dunans Castle lost its roof to fire in 2001, and was bought in 2003 by the proprietors of Dunans Castle Limited. We wish to apply for funding to consolidate the building and the site such that we can hire it out for events, the profits from which will be reinvested to continue the restoration.
Why? (1) The building is in a ruinous state and has local historical importance, and is therefore in itself worth restoring. (2) The opportunity to restore the building through the elaboration of a proven, sustainable albeit small scale business obviates the risks associated with a significant initial investment (or borrowing) of c. £7 million to restore the building fully within a year (3) The castle already attracts significant visitor numbers, both for walking and for theatrical and foraging events both through ScottishLaird.com, a partnership with Gift Republic Ltd. and Cowalfest Walking and Arts Festival (4) Colintraive and Glendaruel is a community HIE has classified as fragile economically and this project would be a significant boost to a moribund local agricultural and forestry economy.
What? Although applicable to other priorities, this project will mainly deliver priority ARG 15a — the conservation and enhancement of two listed structures: the A-listed Dunans Bridge, and the B-listed Dunans Castle. The project will ensure that the latter creates a sustainable income through its use as an events facility during all its phases of renovation.
The funded part of this project involves readying the present unusable structure for events. By rendering the castle useable and accessible, we protect the structure, we ensure its use, and we give ourselves the opportunity to create a sustainable business without incurring unsustainable levels of debt.
The work for which we are applying for funding would include the clearance of the castle, consolidation of the structure by use of structural interventions and capping of the walls, provision of fit-for-purpose flooring throughout, toilet facilities, access improvements and improvements to the grounds to enable event use. Thereafter, further improvements and facilities will be provided by reinvestment as the building earns income as it is used for events.
Cost, approximately £200,000
When? The work would be scheduled to start March 2012 and be completed July 2012
Where? The site has the Location Code 142/0029, and this concerns Land Parcel Identifiers NS/04108/91093 and NS/04072/91309. The former contains the building, and is connected to the latter by the aforementioned A-listed bridge.
As you can tell from the above, there was an awful lot of work went into the SOI, but it will be worthwhile when we can create a sustainable business which will rebuild the castle.
I’d love to hear what you think of the plan itself, and also whether you have any other additional suggestions. As ever, if you have a skillset or experience you’d like to offer we’d be delighted.