Following the creation of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in 2002, residents of Callander – the area’s largest town – established the Callander Community Development Trust (CCDT). The objective of the trust was to regenerate the town whilst benefiting the community and region.
Following consultation with local people, the trust put together a community action plan. The trust’s board recognised that the area’s natural resources could generate revenue for the local economy and that hydro power was the obvious answer.
By generating hydro-electric energy for sale to the National Grid, the CCDT could make the town more sustainable and less reliant on external funding.
The first step towards creating the hydro-electric scheme was to secure funding. CCDT applied to Social Investment Scotland (SIS) and received £1.9million. Further investment was also secured from Scottish Investment Bank and Triodos Bank, in addition to grant funding from EU Leader and the Scottish Government.
Callander Community Hydro is now one of the first community-led hydro schemes in Scotland.
The ‘run-of-river’ system diverts water from Stank Burn into a turbine house to generate electricity before returning it to the burn further downstream. Electricity was first generated and sold to the National Grid in September 2014, and the scheme is anticipated to produce £3 million of investments over the next 20 years.
The people of Callander have already begun to see the benefits. The Trust has so far distributed £80,000 from the Hydro Fund to community projects and part-funds the Callander Town Coordinator who brings community groups together and helps manage the fund.
Awards have varied in size and budget, from a lawnmower for the local bowling club to a refurbished kitchen for the community hall. Youth club projects, improved childcare and lunch club transport have also gained.
To make what resources they have stretch as far as possible, the CCDT uses income to attract funding for larger projects.
One example is the Heritage Lottery-funded woodlands improvement work, for which the trust received £1.5 million towards 20 small projects focusing on ownership, improving trails, and interpretation. The CCDT also works with partners to assess how to protect, preserve and develop local facilities.
Recent changes in legislation mean the trust can now look at community asset transfer from Stirling Council of the town’s car parks, toilets, play parks and local woods to take over their management and maintenance.
Trossachs Mobility received £7,000 from the Hydro Fund, which allowed them to rent a shop on Callander High Street.
Friends Gordon Wilson and Wayne Johnson set up the company in 2016 to provide all-terrain wheelchair hire to open the great outdoors to everyone, regardless of mobility. They were nominated the same year for a Scottish Rural Award.
The new shop means they have somewhere central from which to operate and store their vehicles.
The shop also allows visitors to Callander to hire mobility scooters to use around the town. Hydro funding has given Gordon and Wayne the security to provide their services and continue to make a difference to locals and visitors to Callander.
Conservation and the natural environment is one of the key areas which SIS provides investment for.
In the past year alone SIS has approved funding of £267,000 for two organisations within this field. More details about SIS investments and the effect that they have can be found in Social Investment Scotland’s annual impact report, which you can find at www.socialinvestmentscotland.com/social-impact-report-2017/
Alastair Davis, CEO, Social Investment Scotland.