Community land ownership
Eco action does not have to involve gathering in huge crowds to wave banners at the government. Over lockdown, smaller, local, land-based actions have felt more empowering (and possible!) These changes start from a small point and ripple outwards. Reclaiming land and spaces helps us become more resilient to climate change and other sicknesses of society. It helps us become less reliant on, and contributing less to exploitative systems. It helps us become more connected with the land and each other.
Midsteeple Quarter is an example of this principle of community land ownership in Dumfries. It is a Community Benefit Society, set up and run by people of Dumfries to help shape a prosperous, compassionate and vibrant town centre for the future. They plan to take ownership of a group of disused buildings on the High Street, and refurbish and steward them for the local community. Affordable enterprise space will be at street level, and good quality flats for rent on the floors above.
“This is an organised movement, this is grassroots stuff at its absolute finest” – Evie Copland, Board Member
[Picture: still from Community Land Scotland’s film, see below for link].
They already own The Oven (135-139 High Street), after a Community Asset Transfer from DG Council in November 2018, and building work is starting to convert part of this building into flats.
Midsteeple Quarter is set to be a sustainable development, built with
- all natural, and recycled materials where possible
- good insulation to minimise energy requirements
- orientation for solar gain and solar energy
- designed for low water usage, and for ensuring good air quality, with heat recovery ventilation.
- low-carbon standards, responding to the ecology of the site
- minimising waste during construction
They even have some exciting ideas for geothermal energy, dependent on research and feasibility studies, as Dumfries is apparently sitting on a hot aquifer (I know, hard to believe!)
While the project is primarily for indoor, built space, the plans create space for greenness, with private balconies, courtyards, green roofs and closes as part of a planted landscape. This is great for residents, and will help to use or store surface water.
Finally, they have a robust approach towards transport; to reduce reliance on transport and high energy activities, their project is ‘based around a car-free environment’. It proposes cycle storage facilities for residents and visitors, and possibly a pool car with electric charging point system.
See plans here:
Introductory video, featuring Dan Gillespie’s poem ‘Midsteeple People’: https://www.midsteeplequarter.org/1168-2/
Become a Member: https://www.midsteeplequarter.org/join-us/
There are also projects for potential community ownership of big tracts of land in Dumfries and Galloway: one at Wanlockhead – https://wanlockheadcommunitytrust.org/, and one at Langholm – https://www.langholminitiative.org.uk/.
The Community Empowerment Act (2015) allows us to:
- Register interest in buying land with a group
- Purchase land that is abandoned, neglected, or causing environmental harm to the wellbeing of a community, for sustainable development of that land.
- Seek Community Asset Transfers