New Lanark’s parlous finances led to row

New Lanark light show. September 2019
New Lanark light show. September 2019

The New Lanark Trust has “paused” its highly controversial takeover of the village’s tenant-run affordable renting housing association.

However, it claims that the takeover plan has been prompted by the “parlous” state of the World Heritage village’s finances.

A letter from the Trust’s chairman Bill Howat to the village’s Residents Group appears to confirm widespread rumours that the Trust-run New Lanark Hotel’s rates relief as a hospitality training establishment has been removed, leaving the Trust with an unexpected tax bill.

The Trust’s charitable offshoot New Lanark Homes has 45 flats for rent to low income families and reported assets of £200,000.

There was outrage when the Trust said that it proposed to take over both the homes and the assets and start to charge new tenants the ‘market rate’ of rent.

A Trust representative was at a sometimes heated tenants’ meeting in the village a fortnight ago, also attended by Clydesdale’s MSP Aileen Campbell.

She suggested that a full public meeting with over 60 people attending wasn’t the ideal forum for detailed talks and won support for a suggestion that a smaller meeting be held between tenant and Trust representatives.

This week the Trust’s chairman Bill Howat has told the village’s Residents Group that he is happy for that meeting to be held and claims there was misinformation circulated before the public meeting which caused unnecessary concerns.

He confirmed that the Trust would suspend its takeover of New Lanark Homes in the meantime but made it clear that something had to be done to balance the village’s finances, hit by the rates relief removal and generally poor trading conditions.

He recognised that the Trust could have handled its communications with residents better and pledged closer co-operation in the future.

The Gazette talked to several tenants in the past week who all welcomed the development.

Meanwhile, on a more positive note, New Lanark continues to stage eye-catching events in a bid to draw in the visitors.

Coming up next month is ‘Shining Lives: Fortunes of Fate’,described as “a spectacular immersive sound and large-scale light installation illumination projecting images onto New Lanark’s building facades.”

The images will tell the story of Highlanders who made New Lanark their home.