Members of the trust and the many volunteers transforming Lanark’s Castlebank Park were shocked this week to see the flagship project rejected for National Lottery funding.
“Scunnered” was the word used by Sylvia Russell, chairman of Lanark Community Development Trust.
“We are utterly devastated,” she said. “That is five years of wasted work.”
The trust wanted £500,000 from the lottery to turn the park’s derelict sawmill building into a community hub and teaching base.
It had been refused Lotto funding in the past, but with climate change funds and other grants it was able to create a massive horticulture centre on the dump site of the old tennis court and rebuild an outbuilding as toilets for volunteers and students.
Elsewhere, it has created a fairy dell, and the historic terraced gardens above the Clyde Valley are now open again, planted out around a new statue of William Wallace.
The work grew out of a petition instigated by the Gazette a decade ago as local people voiced concern at the state of the park as it had been virtually abandoned.
The projects have involved many volunteers and South Lanarkshire Council, and the park has been transformed.
Last year it won Green Flag status.
The sawmill building was to provide a kitchen, gallery or hall, open to outside users, with a classroom above storage space at the end and a canopy fitted with solar panels linking it to the toilet block.
After its first lottery refusal, the trust applied again, this time to a fund to “grow community assets”.
First it had to own the asset, and it took 18 months for the legal work involved in that and for the council to agree to transfer the sawmill to the trust. That now hangs in the balance.
Ironically, the trust had just been awarded £93,500 by the European Union’s Leader initiative, and that might well be lost now.
“This means we lose the Leader funding because it was down as match funding for the lottery money,” said Sylvia.
More frustrating is that the lottery itself gave a grant of £26,000 last year to fund public consultation and a business plan for the project.
The news that the application had been turned down was a complete shock.
“We are all exceedingly dumped – really, really dumped,” said Sylvia.
The reasons given were that Lanark was not an area of deprivation and that there was no evidence of sustainability for the project.
“There is no comeback, and no right of appeal,” said Sylvia.
“So much work has gone into this. The community was right behind it. I just think the lottery have wasted everybody’s time, and I am absolutely disgusted with them.”
Councillor Catherine McClymont, also a trustee, wants to know what projects will be getting money when Castlebank is refused any.
“I am absolutely gutted and disgusted,” she said, talking of all the work put in by volunteers and by the council’s grant officer, Kenny Lean.
“I just cannot believe that has happened.”
However, the trust is already looking at ways of salvaging the plans, paring them down and going ahead anyway.
If the asset transfer still holds, work is needed to the roof of the sawmill, but the space itself is large and sound.
“We are not giving up,” said Sylvia. “We will see what we can do with the plans.
“I don’t think we have a chance of doing what we need for the Rolls Royce version, but we will be trimming our sails a bit.”
Once they get their breath back, the round of approaching organisations for money will get going again for Plan B.