Housing to 2040 Voices: Moira MacVicar, West Highland Housing Association

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During the summer in 2019 A&DS and Scottish Government travelled to four locations across Scotland to review the delivery of recent affordable housing – built and planned. You can read more about the workshops here. We also spoke to people involved in the projects –  from the resident to the client, the architect to the councillor.  Here are their stories.

Moira MacVicar, Partnership Lead, West Highland Housing Association

 In my role as Partnership Lead with West Highland Housing Association (a subsidiary of Link Housing Association), I liaise with different partners, particularly health and social care and the community of Dunbeg. Prior to joining WHHA in 2017, I was a housing manager for Argyll and Bute Council. Part of my role was in housing development, so I’ve been at the coalface, so to speak, with this development throughout.

There’s almost like a new community being created in Dunbeg, with the 300 houses currently under construction forming the third and largest phase.I’ve been working on the planning consultation events within the existing community. There has been a lot of community consultation over the extended period of the project, and with it being so many years in the making, residents of the original village felt somewhat ‘consulted out’.

Connecting with existing village

Initially, residents of the original Dunbeg were primarily interested in how the development was going to impact on their existing village. Some of their concerns are difficult for the housing association to resolve alone; they can really only be tackled with real partnership working between the strategic bodies, those at the delivery end – the housing association and developer – and the community.

A new Dunbeg Development Group was recently established…now that residents can see things happening, it’s motivating a new group of people to come together and take advantage of the opportunities for improved facilities. There had previously been a Development Group which fell by the wayside over time.

The first meeting of the new group took place in late November 2019, comprising members of the new and existingcommunity. Myself and the Council’s Community Development Officer have worked to support the group. We’ve also managed to get a local charity interested in taking forward proposals for the community woodland around the new development.

The new Development Group is very enthusiastic about getting improved facilities and amenities for the whole village. They’d like a village hall, and would like to see concerns about the current school addressed – its capacity, the age of the building and its congestion-prone location at the end of a cul-de-sac. The phase 4 proposals do mention provision for a new school and for community facilities, but at the moment nobody really knows exactly what shape those should take. Phase 4 also includes a roundabout to provide a second access into Dunbeg – the community have always been very keen on that happening.

Landscaping and Play Areas

Recently, we have engaged pupils from the local school about the landscaping and play areas, and we’re arranging for them to visit the site now that some homes are nearing completion. We are helping the school incorporate the development into the curriculum, with topics the different jobs and skills needed to build homes. The development consultants have supplied some learning resource materials to the school.

Of course, when the children get involved, the parents take an interest too – I think this has been a brilliant way to get community buy-in, to flip the discussion around and talk about the benefits the development could bring the existing community. When I went to speak to the school – we’ve been twice – the kids were really enthusiastic and had the most insightful questions! It was fascinating to hear their viewpoints.

I would like to see real progress made towards making sure the community – existing and new – gets the additional facilities it has identified it needs. One option is a new-build school on a different site, incorporating good community facilities such as a community hall space and playing fields available for wider community use. I hope that we manage to get the alternative access in and that the issues with the trunk road are sorted out. I’ll continue to work with residents and the Development Group to help shape their input to plans for the next phase. However, the funding for seeing through these things will be critical.

 

Read more about the Housing to 2040 Summer Workshops here.

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