In a series of articles we are looking at the theme of community. The High Street Store was nominated for the Civic Trust Scotland My Place Award 2017, and in this piece we interview John Palfreyman, Director of Forward Coupar Angus
Describe your project
We purchased and renovated a small property in the centre of Coupar Angus. We have turned it into a small local shop where we sell local produce, veg, and arts and crafts. It’s also the head quarters of the Development Trust for Coupar Angus.
How did the process begin?
We had been looking at the building for a number of years. It was spoiling an area that had been regenerated over the last decade. It took two to three years before the owner agreed to sell and then two weeks later the Scottish Government launched its Town Centre Community Capital Fund, so it was really these two events that made it possible.
Who was involved in making the project what community involvement was there?
We carried out a number of community surveys and there were two things people wanted – one was the renovation of this building and the second one was another building at the centre of town, the White House, a semi- derelict 18th Century former inn, which we have now started to work on. So we knew there was a general feeling in the town that people wanted this building upgraded so that was the start of the community involvement.
We have one paid member of staff who does the overall management, places orders and makes sure there’s a work rota for all the volunteers. It’s now open six days a week.
How was funding raised?
Some local people offered donations towards the purchase of the building but in fact we didn’t need that in the end. The funding was raised through the Town Centre Community Capital Fund. It doesn’t need a great deal of stock. A small amount of money was used to purchase local fruit and vegetables to get us underway and most of the crafts work comes in on a sale or return basis.
What was your biggest lesson learnt?
I was thinking about this in terms of the next project, the Whitehouse. It cost more than we expected and these projects take a long time and you have to be persistent. Another lesson was to strengthen our board – we now have a lawyer, someone with financial experience, a couple of entrepreneurs that we didn’t have before.
What advice would you give people who wished to become active in changing a place?
My first advice is ‘get on with it’ because some people spend too much time thinking about it. Definitely community involvement is crucial – making sure you are doing something that people want and people need because if you do that everything will become much easier.
What are the plans for the future?
The White House is a much bigger building and we are looking at trying to set it up as a training and education centre focusing around food and food related issues because there is a huge heritage of food in our area. We started about a year ago and the aim is for a farm shop, a bistro and training kitchen.
We’ve been interested in The White House for three or four years. The store came along and diverted our attention but I am really glad it did because if we had taken on the White House before this experience we would have just got ourselves into a mess because we’ve learnt so much through the process.