A community group has had support from residents for a bold plan to take over a redundant Bank building as a community asset.
Wigtown & Bladnoch Community Initiative held a public meeting in Wigtown County Buildings on Monday August 21 to talk about community purchase of the Bank of Scotland building in the town.
The town’s only remaining bank is scheduled to close at the end of September, and is expected to put the building, in the centre of Wigtown’s conservation area, up for sale.
About 40 people attended, to hear invited speakers and share ideas for the bank building.
Lindsay Chalmers of Community Land Scotland described examples of community land ownership across the country, such as Isle of Eigg, Harris, Edinburgh and Campbeltown. This has brought benefits to the communities involved, such as affordable housing, improved economic opportunities and even a Spaceport at Machrihanish Airfield.
Maureen Chand of Mull of Galloway Trust gave an inspirational description of how the community in Kirkmaiden Parish on the Rhins of Galloway took ownership of 30 acres at the Mull. She stressed how important marketing is to keep up their profile, and encourage visitors.
A spokesman for the initiative said: “Ideas for the Bank of Scotland building came thick and fast. Everyone agreed that allowing the building to lie empty would be bad for the town. Suggested uses include holiday accommodation, affordable housing, community garden, open office space and community hub for local groups and self-employed, training facilities, credit union or community banking, and lots more.
“The Initiative is working on a community right to buy application for the building, and is in touch with Bank of Scotland about this too. There is a petition in local shops, for residents to show their support for the idea, without making any hard and fast commitment. The Initiative hopes to get at least 200 signatures.”
A Bank of Scotland spokesperson commented: “After a branch has closed, the Bank will arrange for an agent to market the property for sale on our behalf if it is freehold, or return the property to the landlord in the case of leasehold. Once the branch has been closed and it has been placed openly on the market for sale, the merits of all offers to purchase a particular property will be carefully considered, including offers from the community.”