Community gain historic victory in buyout of Portobello church land

Locals secure land and power for themselves in historic purchase

A COMMUNITY GROUP, called Action Porty and Save Bellfield, has won the approval from the Scottish Government to go ahead with a buyout of church premises in Portobello in Edinburgh.

The plan is to buy of the former Old Parish Church in Bellfield Street by the charity Action Porty is the first urban community buy-out under the new land reform and community empowerment legislation.

Campaigners and locals who have formed a new charity to complete the purchase state that the case is an example of the practical effects of the reform of land use and community rights.

“This wouldn't have been possible without the massive amount of support we have had from the community, and we will continue to need their help as we move forward." Mary Campbell

Justin Kenrick, who is part of Action Porty, said: "It is absolutely fantastic having these pieces of the jigsaw fall into place. What this means for Portobello is that crucial community space will remain in community hands. It also demonstrates to communities across Scotland that it is absolutely worth trying to save places that matter to us.

“We have hugely appreciated the support and advice we've received from the Community Land Team at the Scottish Government. It has been a steep learning curve for them as well as for us because we are the first urban community right to buy (CRtB). We will be inviting them as well as the Government Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, the General Trustees, and all congregations and community members in Portobello, as well as all those who have worked so hard to put land reform on the agenda, to join the celebrations when the handover of the key finally happens.

“We hope to complete the purchase and get hold of the keys in August, and will then be working on the buildings to get them ready to open to everyday use in December or January."

“What this means for Portobello is that crucial community space will remain in community hands.” Justin Kenrick

The group’s plan is to turn the Old Porty church and halls into a community hub, giving young people back a meeting place for groups like scouts and cubs, providing affordable meeting and activity space and allowing the former church to be used as a multifaith venue with community performances.

It was the church’s trustees who originally accepted the community’s offer to buy the plot and the Scottish Government yesterday (Wednesday 3 April) upheld the purchase.

According to the group, a valuation of £600,000 has been agreed by all parties of which £570,000 has been guaranteed by the Scottish Land Fund. The Bellfield locals are currently in the process of raising the rest of the £30,000 and are also looking to raise funds to develop the space, making it better insulated and more accessible.

Mary Campbell said: "This is such a great achievement for the whole community. We have also had so much help and support from hundreds of volunteers - collecting signatures for the petition, holding fundraisers, knocking on doors to raise awareness of the Government ballot, and much more.

“This wouldn't have been possible without the massive amount of support we have had from the community, and we will continue to need their help as we move forward."

Picture courtesy of Save Bellfield

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