THE Langholm Alliance has welcomed the news that Dumfries and Galloway Council is giving it the chance to take on the former primary school.
The alliance’s community enterprise manager, Nicol Nicolson, was contacted by the council to say it had not opted to recommend the private bid first lodged on the school in January.
This meant the alliance was in a position to start consulting and business planning on the premises, with a view to taking its case to the Scottish Land Fund for a technical assistance grant which would assess feasibility.
It would need to act quickly because there was no guarantee the site would be taken off the market until it had met the conditions for a Stage 2 Community Asset Transfer acceptance by the council.
This would give them a six-month window in which to sort out its finances.
It could look at various other routes for funding such as the UK government’s community ownership fund, which opened its second round in December.
Nicol told the E&L Advertiser: “This has to be a project for everyone.
“By that, I mean I want as many people in the community to benefit from it as they can but also as many people as possible to play a part in shaping its future.
“It’s too big a project for a handful of people to get off the ground.
“We have to balance what the community wants with what will be a sustainable development which can pay for itself.
“One note of caution: the feasibility study may indicate the cost of taking this on is prohibitive but we need to know that.
“We have to put a business plan together and do it as quickly as humanly possible but take on as many views as possible.”
The alliance needs to show at least 10 per cent of the population supports the project before it can go to the council which will take it off the market for six months while the alliance sorts its finances.
Nicol added: “It’s exciting. There is a lot of potential for this site and there aren’t many others. It ticks several boxes for the community.
“We’ll work with organisations and individuals to ensure that what we set out to do has the greatest level of buy-in.
“This is not an overnight thing; it may have to be done in several stages.
“There will be priorities in terms of who is ready to do work or move in and make it a sustainable place.
“I don’t want people to be disheartened by that; it’s just the reality of taking on something of that scale.
The alliance is focusing on its three priority projects: making Langholm an outdoor recreation hub and helping the town to compete with what is happening to the west and east.
The second is heritage which starts with the town’s 400th anniversary in September and the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s visit in March 1972.
The third is creating a space for young people.
The building also has potential to include a bunkhouse and café, a place for arts and culture and small businesses.
Nicol said: “I don’t want to be asking public money to be thrown at it until I’m confident this is a self-sustaining venture which the community can get behind.”