A FORMER school building from the 1800s has been transformed to create an impressive community hub encompassing offices, green space, gym and leisure centre thanks to a major grant from the Renewable Energy Fund (REF).
Abington Development Community Group’s (ADCG) significant community revamp is thanks to a £149,000 REF grant which is managed and distributed by South Lanarkshire Council utilising funding from Banks Renewables’ nearby Middlemuir Wind Farm. It is the largest REF grant awarded by Banks to date.
The initiative is set to bring an abundance of recreational opportunities to the people of Abington in South Lanarkshire, with health and wellbeing, volunteering and community possibilities to come from it. It is also set to create numerous jobs and offer a financially viable option for small start-ups and local businesses to rent office space.
Katie Stuart-Cox stumbled across the derelict former Abington Primary School site on a walk one day and was inspired to transform the site into a community asset. She went on to set up the ADCG charity and is now just months away from completing the major renovation set to bring significant benefits and opportunities to the local community.
Katie Stuart-Cox, Chair at ADCG said: “As soon as I saw the site, I knew it had real potential to become something that could make a big difference to local people. I instantly rang up the council to find out whether the site was available to purchase.
“There is a real risk that rural communities like Abington fall behind the times and don’t keep up with the modern facilities people in bigger towns and cities have to hand – this project is hopefully going to showcase the real benefits of having the best, accessible facilities within close distances to rural towns.
“The visions I had are finally starting to come to fruition thanks to the generous funders who have been involved. Through funding routes like the REF grant, these worthwhile projects are allowed to happen and made so much easier.”
While working on the colossal renovation project, Katie also juggled her full-time job working for the British Red Cross, overseeing all of their charity retail spaces in Scotland. She was encouraged throughout by her best friend, Jo Talbot, who was paramount to getting the project off the ground and is now the charity’s secretary.
In addition to the REF grant, the project has received more than £1million of funding from the Scottish Government and funding from the nearby Clyde Wind Farm.
The community group worked closely with South Lanarkshire Council’s external funding team to develop a complete funding plan to enable them to deliver the project.
Councillor Robert Brown, the council’s Chair of Community and Enterprise Resources, said: “This is a wonderful project, where local people are bringing a facility to Abington that will benefit the whole community. In particular, Katie deserves huge credit for not only undertaking so much work to bring it to this stage, but also for having the vision in the first place.
“The Renewable Energy fund is a great example of how we can generate our electricity more responsibly and at the same time benefit local communities through partnership working and mutual support, and it is great to see a true win-win situation.
“Here we have an energy form of the future improving the day-to-day lives of local people into the future – a perfect combination.”
The renewable energy fund comes from renewable developments across South Lanarkshire which helps communities within 10km of participating wind farms.
Robin Winstanley, sustainability and external affairs manager at Banks Renewables said: “The Abington project is a milestone moment for the area and South Lanarkshire as a whole. There is no doubt that this will provide serious longevity and value to local communities.
“This project is set to bring endless benefits and uses to the area and we are very proud to be playing a crucial part in helping to restore the historical building.”
The fund is part of Banks Renewables’ Connect2Renewables initiative, in which the family firm commits to maximising the economic and social benefits of all its wind farms in South Lanarkshire.
For more information regarding how to apply for a REF grant, visit: https://www.southlanarkshire.gov.uk/info/200168/getting_involved_in_your_community/744/renewable_energy_fund_grants
For more information on Banks Renewables, visit: https://www.banksgroup.co.uk/renewables/