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Buying the Kings Arms for the community of Ballantrae, for use as a ‘Community Hub’

Questions and answers (Q&A)

If the Trust turns the Kings Arms into a ‘community hub’, does that mean we’ll lose the last hotel/pub in the village?

No, because our intention in buying the building for the community is to safe-guard its future as a resource for the village. And the response to our communi-ty consultation makes it overwhelmingly clear that both locals and people who visit Ballantrae, are keen for the Kings to be a friendly and attractive place where they can go for a drink and to eat. In addition, everyone seems keen that reasonably priced accommodation should continue to be available in the Kings Arms. This fits very well with our expectation that food, drink and overnight accommodation will continue to be central to what goes on in the building.

Do the folk who live in Ballantrae support the idea of buying the Kings Arms and running it as a Community enterprise?

Yes they do and let us tell you why we feel sure about this.

Before firming our proposals up and taking them further, we took great care to ask the people of the village what they thought. We did this through a com-munity consultation, including both a questionnaire that everyone had the oppor-tunity to complete, and through an afternoon drop-in session, where people were invited to come and talk with us. In addition, Board members have been talking with lots of people, during the months that we have been considering this idea.

We feel confident that buying the Kings Arms is what most people would like to happen, because we both sought out and listened carefully to the views of eve-ryone in the village who was prepared to share them with us. Incidentally, we al-so listened to the views of folk who used to live in the village or who have rela-tives living here, and to those of other people who don’t live here, but who visit the village from time to time and who care about its future.

What did you learn from the consultation?

A. You can find a lot of detail about what we learned in the article that ap-peared in the middle pages of the February edition of the Ballantrae News, and also on the Trust section of the village website, at www.ballantrae.org.uk/livinginginballantrae/theballantraetrust/.

In a nutshell, we found that the vast majority of those who shared their views, either through personal discussion, or by responding to our questionnaire (more than 300 completed questionnaires were completthemed) were in favour of buying the Kings Arms building and developing it as a community resource.

Did you pay attention to views expressed by people who disagreed with the idea of buying the Kings Arms for the village?

Yes, because it was important that in coming to a decision about whether we should try to do so, we should listen carefully to the views of anyone who was either unsure about, or opposed to the idea. That is why we were vigilant both in encouraging them to say what they thought and in encouraging them to put their thoughts down in writing on the questionnaire. What they told us was and will be included in written reports about what we learned from the consultation, along with what has been said by those who support the idea.

Interestingly, some of the most positive support we received for our ambi-tions for the Kings Arms project, came from people who disagreed with us buy-ing the Kings, but were unhappy that it no longer occupies the place it once did as the heart of the village. We hope that as time goes on, they will realise that our aim is to restore the pub to its position as a focal point of the village, which is sorely missed by many people, and will feel able to support us in what we are trying to do.

How will the Kings Arms be different as a ‘Community Hub’ than it was as a hotel?

Our ambition is that when it is in community ownership, the Kings Arms will en-hance the life of our community, by being a place for everyone in the village to use and enjoy, regardless of their age or stage of life, or of who they are, so that it regains its place at the heart of the community. This goes along with what many village folks said when we asked whether they thought we should buy it, including:

‘It’s a shame the village has no ‘heart’ anymore.’

‘The Kings Arms used to be the heart of the community,’

‘It (The Kings) used to bring the people of Ballantrae together.’

‘It needs to be changed so that it can be that place again for everyone in the community.’

‘The pub has traditionally occupied the position of being the hub of the community.’

By refurbishing, revitalising and developing the buildings and grounds, our aim is to allow the Kings Arms building to be used to provide facilities and services which folk who live in and around Ballantrae value, and which are not already available in the village. However, even though the range of things that goes on in the building will be greater than before, at the centre of what happens there will be the provision of food and drink, along with accommodation for visitors to the area and ferry passengers, whose custom will help to keep the Kings cost-effective, so that as locals, we can all benefit.

If the Trust buys the King’s Arms for the community as a ‘Community Hub’ will that be a threat to the Community Hall?

Absolutely not. We envisage the Community Hub working closely with other important facilities in our village, including the Community Hall, the Medical Centre, BRICC, the Church and the School, as well as Craigiemains, Shellknowe Gar-age and Scotmid (including the post office) all pulling together for the good of our community.

The Community Hall is well used - so much so that sometimes it is difficult to get a booking for meetings and events, and we expect this to continue. However, the Community Hub will offer different facilities, and as a result might, at times, be a more appropriate venue. For example, the character of the building and the facilities it can provide might make it suitable for professional meetings or training sessions, by companies and organisations that might choose to host such events in Ballantrae, because of the availability of high quality professional catering in a nice setting. And though nothing can be certain, we hope that in time the Hall might benefit from working closely with the Kings Arms. For ex-ample, professional events of the kind just referred to, might require both a large meeting room/performance space/the means of screening a film, which the Hall could provide, and also some more intimate meeting spaces and high quality facilities for eating and drinking.

What kind of food and drink will be provided at the Kings Arms in future?

It is very early in the process to be able to spell this out in detail. However, the range of food and drink on offer will be in line with what can be expected from a modern venue. The offering will be aimed at serving the needs of a wide range of people of all ages, including locals, visitors and passing trade. We would ex-pect a range of food to be on offer, from snacks and sandwiches to lunches and a dinner menu, with children’s options in all cases. And of course, alcohol will feature, alongside tea, coffee and soft drinks.

Will villagers be able to afford to use the facilities at the new Community Hub?

Since it will be a resource for the community, the Trust Board’s view is that whatever the building is used for, it is important that it is a place that residents of the village both want to use and can afford to use.

It’s been said that in its new life the Kings Arms will provide good food and drink at ‘affordable prices’. What is meant by ‘affordable’?

We mean that, while appealing to customers, prices will need to be set at a level that will allow us to manage the Hub in a cost-effective way. So when we talk about good food and drink being available at ‘affordable prices’, we mean we’d aim to ensure that whatever they consume, people will pay around the same as they would pay in other establishments they might visit, including Craigiemains, as well as cafés, pubs and restaurants in Girvan, Stranraer and further afield to which they would have to travel.

Will the Kings Arms project create jobs?

We hope and expect that it will. How many, and what they are, will depend both on the decisions that are made as to how it will be run, and on the extent to which locals and visitors to the village, use it. As things develop it is likely that the number of staff needed will increase.

Is it true that the Trust paid a lot of money for a report on the King’s Arms?

We did pay a firm of architects to carry out a detailed assessment of the con-dition of the building. This was to enable us to make a reasoned and responsible decision about whether it made sense to consider buying it. It was because that report did not point out any major problems that we felt able to ask the com-munity what they thought about the proposal that we should try to buy it as a community resource. The money for the survey came in a grant from Carrick Futures Community Benefit Fund.

We have also engaged Community Enterprise, who have huge experience in helping community groups in planning community owned and managed enterpris-es, to help us. Their work will help us to determine the viability of the project we have in mind, so that we can make well-judged and responsible decisions about whether to proceed with the project, and about how to do so if we decide that we should. They are using their experience and expertise to look carefully into a wide range of aspects of the project for us, and will also help us in developing a business plan, and in putting together and implementing a funding strategy. Their website is at https://communityenterprise.co.uk/

As a community enterprise, will the Kings Arms be staffed by lo-cals/volunteers, or does the Trust intend to employ experienced staff?

The ‘Community Hub’ will be established as a social enterprise, with any surplus funds after paying staff and bills being ploughed back into the project. It will therefore be running as a business, that needs to be self-supporting, just like any other sustainable business. To be viable the proposal to purchase, refurbish and modernise the Kings Arms for the village and then ‘reboot’ it as a community hub and pub, will thus need to be underpinned by a carefully constructed business plan. In addition, it will have to be run by people who demonstrably have the professional skills and experience necessary to run it successfully.

It is because careful and skilled management is crucial to the viability of the project that finding the right manager and helping her/him to find a suitable team, will be our highest priority, once we have ensured that the building is fit for purpose.

When we are clear about what the future use of the building will involve, including the range of activities and events that it might host, in addition to providing food, drink and accommodation, the Trust will seek professional ad-vice on the experience and skills that the manager and his/her team will need; these will undoubtedly extend well beyond the usual range of skills needed for hotel/bar work. Then, having decided on the skills and experience necessary to support the range of activities that may take place in the building, we will – again with appropriate professional support, take steps to find staff with those skills and that experience.

Can a local venture like this, in a small village, ever be sustainable?

As we have said elsewhere, the Trust is taking very seriously the need to con-sider whether the project can be established as a sustainable business that serves the community, that in time can make not just a social, but a financial contribution to the life of the village. Undertaking such a large and costly pro-ject would not only be unwise, but also irresponsible if there was no prospect of the business being viable. That is why we have sought professional help from Community Enterprise, whose role we have already discussed in answering the question ‘Is it true that the Trust paid a lot of money for a report on the King’s Arms?’ a little before this one on the list.

If you want to know more about ventures similar to those that we are pro-posing, and whether or not they can be sustainable, you might like to look at our answer to the question ‘What success rate have similar community buy-outs had?’ which appears further down this list, where we give some links both to or-ganisations that are involved in helping to set up and support similar projects, and to a couple of interesting examples of pubs that are now owned and run by their local communities.

How much will it cost to buy and refurbish the King’s Arms, and set up the Community Hub?

At this stage we can’t be sure, because in addition to the purchase price there will be costs for renovation, upgrading and maintenance. In addition, though we know the asking price, we await the independent valuation we have commis-sioned, which will influence what we can pay, since the funders (The Scottish Land Fund) from whom we are seeking funds to purchase the building, will tailor the amount they are prepared to give us, to the valuation, rather than the asking price.

Where will the Trust get the money to buy and refurbish the King Arms?

We have been talking with the Scottish Land Fund, to whom we will be applying for a grant towards the cost of purchasing the property. We also hope to secure funds from a number of other sources, including two of the local Wind Farm Funds - Carrick Futures and the Ballantrae Community Fund, to help with the cost of refurbishing and updating the building.

In addition, since interest has been expressed in the possibility of locals be-ing able to show their support by investing money as well as energy in the
project, we have been talking to Community Shares Scotland to explore how we could make this possible. You can find out more about their work at
www.communitysharesscotland.org.uk

What are ‘Community Shares’?

Community shares schemes can help to build stronger, more vibrant, and inde-pendent communities by giving members an opportunity to invest in something that matters to them. By buying shares in an enterprise owned and governed by the community it serves, members of that community can help it to provide goods and services that meet their needs. It is because the Kings Arms Village Hub and Pub will be an enterprise owned and governed by our community, that we are looking at ways in which those who wish to do so, can invest not only their energy and good will in helping with the Kings Arms project, but also their mon-ey.

Offering community shares has helped some communities to save local shops and pubs. It has helped others to finance renewable energy schemes, and to transform community facilities. Since 2009, almost 100,000 people have invest-ed over £100m to support 350 community businesses throughout the UK.

How much work needs to be done in the building in order to allow the project to proceed?

The architect’s report that we commissioned has given us a good overview of the condition of the building along with a list of necessary remedial work, which includes no major problems. In addition, the architects have provided some suggestions for ways of improving the building. Before proceeding with the purchase of the Kings Arms we will be making decisions, both about a proposed programme of works to be undertaken to repair, refurbish and improve the building, and thinking about the timescale over which such work should be undertaken. This will inform our thinking and planning for fund raising, as well as about the timescale within which we should be working.

The Community Consultation, used to inform our decision about whether we should purchase the Kings Arms for the village and about how we should develop the building, will also inform our thinking about how and when to undertake the work we decide to do (we don’t need to do everything at once).

We are being helped in all of this by Community Enterprise, the consultants we have appointed to advise us about the project’s viability, who are also assisting us in putting together a business plan and in developing our strategy for raising the funds we need. At that point we will be able to determine detailed costings. You can find out more about Community Enterprise at https://communityenterprise.co.uk/

Is the project intended to make a profit?

As a social enterprise the Community Hub will aim to meet some of the needs of our community and of those who spend time here as visitors. There will be a particular emphasis on the provision of well-priced food and drink (including alcohol, soft drinks, tea and coffee) throughout the day. Although the intention in setting it up is to enhance the life of our village rather than to generate a profit, like all businesses, it will have to be financially viable, so that it can cover its expenses, pay its staff, maintain the fabric of the building and cover all the operational expenses associated with running the business. and all the expenses that go with maintaining, heating and lighting the building. Any surplus after that will be re-invested in developing the Hub and its work.

Is the Kings Arms currently profitable?

Unfortunately, since we don’t own it, that’s really a question for the current owners. Our concern, which we are addressing with the help of Community Enterprise, is whether a viable and sustainable business for the benefit of the community of Ballantrae, can be established if the Trust purchases the building. The work Community Enterprise is carrying out on our behalf will help us decide about this.

.If the Kings Arms is owned by the village will I have to pay towards the costs of running it, because I live here?

No-one will be asked or expected to pay anything towards buying, setting-up or maintaining the new Kings Arms Village Hub.

How will a little village like Ballantrae ever be able to pay back the money we get from the Scottish Land Fund to buy it?

Providing that any money we receive from them is used for the appropriate purpose as per the terms of the grant award, we will not be expected to pay back anything to the Land Fund, because the money we receive will be a grant, rather than a loan.

How long will all of this take?

The process of buying, repairing and refurbishing the Kings Arms and setting things in place so that we can begin trading as a viable business, will not be quick. The Trust has already carried out the Community Consultation to ensure that the folk of Ballantrae are in favour of what we are proposing. In conjunction with Community Enterprise it is now undertaking a feasibility study that draws on the results of that consultation. Following on from the feasibility study, we will have to put together a 5-year business plan, then write and submit grant funding applications to raise the money we need. This is a complicated process, which will take a great deal of time, energy and hard work. But, if all goes well, we hope to buy the King’s Arms and have triggered the first stage of its refurbishment by the end of 2020, if not before.

Will purchasing the Kings Arms on behalf of the community, have an effect on other businesses in the village?

This is an important question, which deserves to be taken seriously, because our ambition in developing the Kings Arms for the village, is to enhance it for every-one. To achieve this, we need to develop the Kings as a sustainable business, without impacting negatively on other businesses.

In order to be financially viable, the Kings Arms will have to attract custom, not only from local people, but also from visitors from outside the immediate area. In addition, it wlll have to bring in passing trade, (including from the 4000 or so vehicles that flow through en route to and from the ferry ports, each day). Our view is that we will be attracting business into the village, from folk who otherwise might not have come here, or stopped on the way through. This will inevitably increase the potential for additional spending in the village, which should benefit other businesses, including the garage, the shop and the garden centre, and the BRICC Thrift shop. This view seemed to be shared by some folk who contributed to the community consultation, who referred to the effects the Kings Arms Hub could have on the economic health of the village.

For example, referring in a general way to issues of financial sustainability, one contributor commented that buying the Kings Arms for the community ‘…would be extremely beneficial to the economic and social development of the village’, while another argued not only that it would be ‘…good for tourism, which would benefit the community indirectly’, but also that it would ‘…benefit the community directly through jobs, opportunities to promote local crafts etc.’

Other contributors focused on benefits that developing the Kings Arms in the ways we envisage, could bring to businesses that provide B & B and self-catering accommodation. For example, one wrote of the Kings Arms, that ‘…it supports a lot of local businesses – supplying meals for B&B guests/holiday cot-tages etc’. This was supported by another contributor who wrote ‘We have a self-catering cottage…many visitors wish there was a good pub/restaurant as they are mostly disappointed in what Ballantrae has to offer at the moment.’ Our hope is that the Kings Arms project will have a positive effect on business in the village. With careful thought, planning and management, it will attract custom from traffic and holiday makers to spend more time here.

Using information gathered during the community consultation, the picture we have painted above, about the possible effects on businesses in Ballantrae, of developing the Kings Arms, is a rosy one. However, it is important to note that some people have expressed misgivings about the possibility that developing the Kings Arms as a community enterprise could adversely affect other places, such as Craigiemains that already provide meals and/or snacks, along with hot drinks.

Though there is some overlap between the catering offered by Craigiemains (and also Scotmid, which sells a limited range of hot takeaway food and drinks), it is important to remember that under community ownership the Kings will not be introducing a new place to eat, even though the extent and kind of catering it provides would probably change, with a view to increasing revenue. Our aim would be for the Kings Arms to provide something different from what is al-ready offered in the village. In addition, it is important to remember two ways in which the overlaps between catering at Craigiemains and the Kings Arms Hub will be limited. These were pointed out by some contributors to the community consultation. First, when it is under community control, the Kings will continue to sell alcohol, while the Garden Centre doesn’t do so, and secondly, much of the food eaten at the Kings Arms will be served after 5pm when Craigiemains is closed.

To conclude, we don’t therefore believe that purchasing the Kings Arms on behalf of the community will hamper other local businesses. Rather, our hope is that, far from impacting negatively on other businesses, a revitalised Kings Arms will enhance the overall appeal of the village by widening the range of catering facilities available in the village. By giving passers-by and visitors/tourists, an-other reason to stop in the village and to think of it as a good place to stop, we expect the new enterprise in the Kings Arms village Hub and Pub, to have a posi-tive impact on other businesses, including those that offer catering.

Why does the proposed outline plan by the architects include a Trust Office?

At the moment, the Trust shares a small office with Roy, the Caretaker in the Community Hall. While it has provided a useful facility in the short term, this s clearly not a long-term solution to the Trust’s need for a base to underpin its various activities, including responsibility for the new Community Hub. Other Development Trusts have benefited considerably from having a ‘Main Street presence’. We have been looking for suitable premises for almost two years without success. Space within the King’s Arms building could be a good solution.

Would the finances of the Kings Arms project be separate from the Trust?

Yes, that is the intention. But the work Community Enterprise are doing on the Feasibility Study and 5 year Business Plan will provide options to be considered.

What success rate have similar community buy-outs had?

Community purchases of buildings like the Kings Arms and their development as community resources, is a relatively new phenomenon in Scotland, but you can find out more at the websites of:

• The Plunkett Foundation, at https://plunkett.co.uk/more-than-a-pub/

• Pub is the Hub, at www.pubisthehub.org.uk

• Community Shares Scotland, at www.communitysharesscotland.org.uk.

All of those websites contain case studies. While pubs and hotels seem to be closing around the UK these three organisations tell stories about community-owned pubs that seem to be bucking the trend. Two interesting examples are:

• The Harrow, in Kent, which you can find out about at https://plunkett.co.uk/the-harrow-kent/

• The Fleece Inn in Gloucestershire, which you find out about at https://www.pubisthehub.org.uk/case-study/the-fleece-inn/

The Angler’s Arms, Bamford, Derbyshire
Perhaps an even better way to gain an impression of what a community run en-terprise such as we aspire to build, might be like, might be to have a look at a recent episode on BBC of the programme ‘Countryfile’, which paid a visit to The Anglers Rest, a pub in the village of Bamford in Derbyshire. The programme, which screened on 26th January 2020, can be accessed via BBC iplayer at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000dt95/countryfile-hope-valley

The Angler’s Rest was the first pub to come into community ownership in Derby-shire and provides for many of the needs of the village, including the Post Office, which is housed in the pub. The pub features several times during the programme, beginning about 2.5 minutes after the beginning

Is there a local example of a successful community pub buy-out?

. In 2019 the village of Gartmore, in Stirlingshire, became the first Scottish village to have both its shop and pub in community ownership, when it purchased and developed the Black Bull Hub and Pub. Buying and redeveloping the Kings Arms, will allow Ballantrae to join the 600 or so other Scottish ventures that own and manage major assets for the benefit of their local community. If we achieve our goal, we will have restored a well-loved building to its traditional place at the heart of our community, You can find out more about Gartmore and the Black Bull Hub and Pub at https: //blackbullgartmore.com/

Any more questions?

If you have other questions, we would very much like to hear them. Please email ballantraetrust@gmail.com, and we’ll respond to you as quickly as we can.


Download Community Consultation  "To buy or not to buy that was the Question"
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