AN AWARD worth £60,000 is being given to the Langholm Alliance to employ a full-time officer to develop its community action plan.
The news was announced at the launch of the plan last Thursday by Professor Russel Griggs, chairman of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP).
The plan brings together eight key priorities: infrastructure and energy; business and economic development; tourism; sports, leisure and outdoor activities; arts and culture; heritage; health and social care; and children and young people.
The event was also used to launch a new tourism brand and strategy and the logo, which has been designed, is of the Malcolm Monument.
Invited guests and the public were welcomed to the launch in the Buccleuch Centre by Billy Young, vice-chairman of the alliance, who introduced Fiona Armstrong, Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries.
She said: “As her Majesty’s personal representative, one of my briefs is to support community enterprise and I know she would very interested in what’s happening here. It’s a very exciting plan and I know Langholm has a great future.”
She praised the community spirit which had brought people together to enable Langholm to speak with one voice.
The alliance had worked with all parts of the community, with SURF (Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum) and the Scottish Community Development Centre which had borne the cost.
Prof Griggs told the audience that two key issues had come forward during the public consultations: getting an integrated public transport system; and more houses.
He cited an example of a hotel in Galloway which could not recruit staff because there was nowhere for them to live.
He said: “Langholm has always been a particular interest; it’s a microcosm of all the challenges in southern Scotland.
“I was astounded that a population of 2,300 had 43 organisations and if you add in all the clubs there are 70.
“You got together under the leadership of some really good people and now you have a plan for the future.
“We approved a community enterprise support programme to help support communities and one thing you need is someone to lead the plan.
“So, £60,000 is being spent on a full-time officer to work with the alliance to lead this. It will have its own person to work on it and won’t need to rely on volunteers.
“This officer will do four things: support implementation of the plan; progress key projects; develop an events programme; and develop regeneration activity.
“We hope this person will become self-sustainable and fund themselves. That person will be in place as soon as possible.
“You are a really good example of what other communities in southern Scotland can do.”
A presentation was then given by three members of the alliance: Campbell Scott, Lucy MacLeod and John Galloway who took the audience through the themes.
The tourism strategy was presented by consultant Graham Hackett of Osprey Delivers who was commissioned to design the strategy.
He said: “We completely enjoyed ourselves developing a brand and strategy. We never got tired of coming here and we’ve worked hard to capture people’s thoughts.
“There is a drive within the town to create a location and a style. We asked people what the assets were and why people would come here.”
He added: “People of Langholm, I’ve always said you’re quite a different bunch but the enthusiasm we’ve engaged with has been second to none and I hope that continues in delivering all the elements of the plan.”
Questions were asked about the tourism strategy, including one by Andrew Scott who said he had searched Airbnb for Langholm and come up with nothing.
Was there a way of monitoring this and encourage and help people who were interested in that aspect?
Mr Hackett said it was a case of finding out what people travelling here wanted in terms of accommodation and to use social media and a website, which was about to be launched.
The alliance panel was asked whether Langholm would get a town brand, like Wigtown Book Town.
Campbell said they were currently discussing a twinning with the birthplace of Neil Armstrong.