Progress at a Pace at Balmacara Community Trust!

In June 2020 a small working group of local people came together for the benefit of the Balmacara community and we would like to share what we have achieved since then!

We in the village of Balmacara, set within the beautiful NTS Estate of Balmacara, intend to restore The Old Mill Hall to its former glory. For years this old hall was the hub of the community where many social gatherings were held including children’s parties, anniversaries, meetings of various groups and the many dances and general get-togethers that were held here over the years. On many occasions the hall would ring with the sound of music and laughter as folks from near and far came to enjoy the many dances that were held there.

The Old Mill Hall in its present state is now dilapidated. The last recorded use by the community was in the late 1980’s, thereafter vandalism and disrepair has caused significant deterioration. But not for much longer!

What we’ve been up to in Balmacara:

  • In 2020 initial research involved understanding previous works and collecting documentation from former committee members and the NTS. We discovered a box full of historic information and the deed dating back to 1947 when Lady Hamilton betrothed the Old Mill Hall to the Community.
  • Fundraising effort provided for the Christmas Tree Lights in December 2020, the switching on of the lights is a key moment for our community to come together annually.
  • We launched a Facebook page in Feb 2021 “Friends of the Old Mill Hall” and started a Go Fund ME campaign.
  • 2021 saw a bigger push to raise funds and our Grand Raffle, it also saw donations from the SPAR.
  • We went out to tender for an architect, community consultation and business planning which led to a funding request to the Architectural Heritage Fund. This was successful. We now have a comprehensive Feasibility Study, full community consultation in place, a Business Plan and have chosen our outline design from the three presented that meets the community’s needs – based on our consultant’s community consultation.
  • We have developed our own brand of merchandise to help raise funds – Mugs, T-Shirts, Coasters and Water Bottles and these are being sold from SPAR, Beth’s Deli and Home in the Highlands.
  • We received letters of support from Kate Forbes MSP, the Rt. Hon. Ian Blackford MP and the NTS.
  • Balmacara Community Trust became a legal entity in July 2021 and OSCR registration soon followed with 4 Directors. This entity gradually took control from the Committee.
  • Our Grand Raffle Draw and Social Evening in August 2021 saw around 60 people come together at the Balmacara Hotel and prizes were handed out by the Lord Lieutenant for Ross, Skye and Cromarty Joanie Whiteford and the Rt. Hon. Ian Blackford MP. Local young people provided music through the evening along with celebrated local musical talent too. Skye Radio attended and made recordings for broadcast the following day.
  • With funding support from the Ward Discretionary Fund and extensive fundraising to cover the legal fees, the Transfer of Ownership from the Halls two current Trustees Bob Anderson and Noel Gordan, into Balmacara Community Trust should complete on the 18th February 2022. This is a historic milestone relinquishing Bob and Noel of their legal liabilities for the Hall and securing the Hall in Community ownership within Balmacara Community Trust. This new and modern Trust structure substantially limits liabilities on individuals for the Hall (The Trust is a Company Limited by Guarantee and Charity), but assures the asset is retained for the community.
  • The Community Council provided funding support or the Christmas Tree Lights in 2021. The switch on of the lights was well attended and fundraising was succesful too.
  • We’ve certainly had some challenges too – with the collapse of the building’s roof, losing some committee members along the way, the vandalism of our Christmas lights and not to mention Covid-19! But we’re delighted with the progress made so far and can’t wait to continue with our plans in 2022.

Our next steps:

It continues to be important for the Community Trust to fundraise. We have monthly outgoings that need to be met including insurance and water rates. We must also have funds that we can put into the project when we are ready to start building works. Part of this activity is to identify and apply to grant funders and we continue to look at this carefully, the restoration is very expensive.

In 2022 we hope to apply to the Architectural Heritage Fund once more, this time for a Development Grant. This would see the final designs progress into documentation ready for a Planning application to the Highland Council.

How you can help:

  • From October 2021 to October 2022 the Coop Community Fund offers its members the opportunity to use their blue membership cards and support our cause too. Simply logging into your membership card details online lets you choose the Balmacara Old Mill Hall as your supported good cause. Every time members buy selected Co-op branded products and services the Coop gives our cause a helping hand (causes.coop.co.uk). Scan here for more information:

Our hopes for the restoration can be seen below:

 

    From this… to this!

 

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our brilliant funders and supporters:

The Architectural Heritage Fund, National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, SPAR, Jan’s Vans, our Community Council, the Ward Discretionary Fund and the Coop.

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