AGM Minutes & Chair’s Report

The AGM minutes has been approved by the board for publication as draft on the website here. and below is the transcript from the minute of the Chair’s report for the year ending 2018.

CHAIR’S REPORT FOR 2017-18

If I were to characterise this year for the trust I would say we have undergone a massive change, albeit one which has snuck under the radar somewhat. 

In 2010 we conceived a plan to create a sustainable income for the trust and the community through the generation of renewable energy in the glen. At every turn this ambition has been thwarted – either by existing installations in the case of microhydro generation, or by the refusal of planning applications, in the case of wind. 

Now, while I think we have a moral and ethical duty to do everything we can to mitigate climate change, we understand as the board we are an organisation which has been set a specific community-oriented task – to improve the lot of as many people as we can in the community through the projects we run.

We have had sterling success in this. The Warmer and Greener ColGlen projects are still, if you will pardon the pun, bearing fruit. This year we will run our third Peoples and Communities Fund Training programme in the forest, training young and unemployed folks and making them ready for work.

However, the projects we have struggle to earn income, and therefore do not contribute to our core requirement as an organisation, which is to be sustainable. With the failure of our renewables business plan, we have been working to reconfigure our approach so that we can continue to develop projects.

That’s the local context. Nationally, Brexit and the UK’s departure from the EU has made the funding landscape very difficult, and means that over the next two years we will find it very difficult to access substantial funds.

The question we have been asking is What can the trust do? And in that context What Next for the community.

Cathleen through her role as chair of the Community Council and with the support of her fellow community councillors has been pushing for a reconfigured agenda for the whole of the community, and the board of the trust completely buys into this initiative and wants to help deliver the outcomes the What Next? session identified.

Our role is to enable this. At present we employ a freelance General Manager, Amber, and we have now taken on two further freelance development officers, Sara MacLean and Nikki Brown. Amber will continue with the day-to-day, week-to-week admin, and Sara and Nikki will be tasked with bringing forward projects. 

Shortly after Christmas through our development officers we will help a steering group move forward with a community newsletter, we will develop some work around the idea of trails within ColGlen and move forward with the clachan hub.

Which brings me to report on existing projects. The hub has stalled. Capacity and the reconfigurations that are going on at the moment around grant-funding have meant we need to re-examine this project and work out how to move forward. I have asked Sara to investigate how we might best spend the remaining development money to move forward.

The forest will need to be brought back into activity, both in terms of ensuring the path network is functional, but also how we are to use the asset now that we have wrapped up the CARES loan and issues around renewables. Nikki will be looking at this.

The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way, as I am sure Jim will report, has been building on the success of previous years and as we come to the end of the coastal community funding, is continuing to work towards the goal of sustainability. There is an ongoing crowdfunding campaign which will help with this. I urge you to contribute if you haven’t. Why? Well, as an example I will quote one of the outcomes of What Next? That we should market ColGlen more. The Cowal Way does this, was always designed to do this. It raises the profile of our area, but more importantly brings in customers for our accommodation providers and our visitor attractions – it is increasingly supporting our local economy. Numbers are up and that will only continue if we can continue to manage the Way proactively.

As I am sure you are aware Kyles Community Broadband closed the procurement for a community-owned network for this area without awarding a contract. This decision was the culmination of negotiations between KCB, HIE and the government and will result in our community receiving a higher priority part of the new R100 project. But more of that later.

I shall close this report with thanks to our hard-working members of staff, Stewart, Charlie and Amber, who put heart and soul into their roles. we are most thankful for their efforts. As for the board: Jm your continued energy with the Way is extraordinary and we are very grateful for it. Cathleen, many thanks for your input this year – its been invigorating for the board and has led to some really good stuff. Colin, many thanks for your input as treasurer – its been much appreciated. John, without you and Graham Curran, the community would not have the prospect of R100 so many thanks for your dogged determination. Alex your sage advice has as always been very much appreciated.

2019 looks like being a very interesting year – I just hope, for the community, it is one of successes and progress, not confusion and division as it has been south of the border these last months, thank you.

Charles Dixon-Spain, Chair

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