By Cheryl Burgess
There was a full house for the ACLI AGM, held on November 14th in Whiting Bay Village Hall. ACLI covers an area of 35 hectares of disused farmland in Whiting Bay and was the first Community Buy-out on Arran. It was purchased in December 2014 with monies from the Scottish Land Fund. The aim of acquiring the land was to advance education, training and skill development, as well as recreational activities and food production by community members. The AGM was led by the Chairperson, Rob Cowieson, who stressed the charitable status of the organisation and outlined its purpose and aims, as stated in its constitution. He stated that decision-making about future ACLI developments should be with these purposes clearly in mind and also take into account available skills and funding. Projects should be viable, and where possible, sustainable.
There was an update on a number of issues affecting ACLI neighbours which had been discussed at the previous AGM. The Chairperson was keen to acknowledge all the great strides which had been made over the last year – funding from the Climate Challenge Fund had enabled Community Gardeners and an apprentice to be employed and high-quality infrastructure to be put in place, including two poly-tunnels, the learning shed and work on some of the paths. There had been two well-attended Open Days and there were now 18 allotment holders using the site. A teacher who was present thanked ACLI for hosting regular activities for school children and asked for this to be extended to other Arran schools. Arran Young Farmers were also represented at the meeting as it was thought that their advice could be invaluable.
With the major funding stream now ended, the Chairperson noted that a different funding model would be needed. Small targeted funding applications would be made, with a focus on encouraging greater participation by local volunteers. Several ideas were under discussion such as horticultural training and other skill-development courses, guided walks around the pathways, archery classes and wild flower meadow planting. Other ideas from community members were welcome, as long as they were realistic and met the ACLI aims. A number of local people were thanked for their help and six trustees were reappointed or appointed; the expectations of the role were then defined. With strong community consultation and participation there was much scope to build on the good achievements to date.