Community shares helped a struggling village revive its harbour.
Portpatrick, on the west coast of Scotland, was once the closest crossing to Donaghadee in Northern Ireland. But the storms that whipped through the North Channel destroyed the crossing so many times that it moved to nearby Stranraer. Villagers were keen to maintain the harbour for pleasure sailors who might spend their evenings – and their money – in the town’s restaurants and pubs. In 2012, a local trust paid £350,000 to bring the harbour into community ownership. It was later valued at just £75,000.
In the scramble to pay considerable debts to the harbour’s previous private owners, Calum Currie, a local oil technician, landed on the idea of selling community shares in the harbour and becoming Scotland’s first community benefit society. In 2015, 554 shareholders from as far away as Canada and Bermuda invested in Portpatrick harbour, raising £100,000. Since, the Portpatrick Harbour community benefit society has secured an extra piece of land from Dumfries and Galloway council for £1, and built a new toilet and shower block for visitors.
Under the Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) 2015, community groups like Portpatrick Harbour community benefit society can take control of local facilities. The society also qualifies for financial relief to run the facilities through several exemption schemes backed by the government. Thanks to these subsidies, Portpatrick Harbour has now employed two local people to maintain its facilities.
“This employment goes some way to initiating the contribution towards the impact on the social and financial wellbeing within the community that the society wishes to impart,” Currie told Portpatrick shareholders in a newsletter in May 2019.
In April 2019, the society secured European funding to restore several buildings on the harbour, to include a washing and drying facility, a workspace and a new harbour office.
Tags Community ownership
New rules needed
Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.
Expand the community and co-operative banking sector
Stakeholder banks can be mandated to serve the public interest or local communities rather than simply to maximise returns.
Turn RBS into a network of local banks
New banks would be owned in trust for the public benefit and mandated to lend only within their local area.
Austerity has pummelled living standards and public services. Now is the time to end it.
Create devolved ‘just transition’ funds
Government should devolve a proportion of its Green New Deal budget to support local just transition plans.
Implement a Blue New Deal for coastal communities
Put coastal communities in control so they can shape local priorities, value their greatest asset and revitalise the UK coast.
Create affordable workspaces
Affordable workspaces are essential to the survival of independent businesses.