A community group from Dumfries has launched an urgent crowdfunding appeal to buy a building on the town’s high street.
The group want to buy Midsteeple Quarter in a bid to lure back local businesses and residents to the town. It had previously been granted money from the Scottish Land Fund to negotiate with the London-based pension fund Threadneedle for a community buy-out of the building, 113-119 High Street.
But the fund has now put it up for auction – with the bidding due to take place in London on Tuesday – leaving the group scrabbling around to raise enough cash to buy the building, which it is says will help Dumfries “buy back its high street”.
It has raised nearly £7,000 towards the acquisition of the building, which has a reserve price of £1.
Scott Mackay, chair of Midsteeple Quarter, which has been working with groups including Dumfries and Galloway Council, social housing providers and local businesses to create community housing in Dumfries in a bid to return the town centre to residents, said: “We have decided to launch a fightback against this cycle of outside property speculation that has blighted our town for decades.
“We have the organisation in place to attract public investment to Dumfries that would see these buildings as part of a prosperous future, a future that would see part of our High Street held in common ownership by local people.”
Any contributors to the crowdfunder will become part-owners of the entire Midsteeple Quarter project, which looks to regenerate a row of empty commercial buildings along the high street.
Phil Prentice, chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), said: “Repurposing the high street is a complex thing, particularly in geographically significant places like Dumfries where the town acts as a regional mini-capital and where you have multiple ownership, an over-supply of retail and a lot of historic and characterful buildings that help define the town.
“The banks have left, the bookies are planning to, the core is cloned and challenged.”
He said that consolidating ownership allows economies of scale, as well as giving local solutions the chance to thrive.
He added: “This is definitely a trailblazing approach but one which STP wholeheartedly supports and we hope that the various levers in central and local government support their initiative. A place-based collaborative approach could be the catalyst that brings the heart of Dumfries back to its proud position as capital of South-west Scotland.”
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “Like all Doonhamers I want to see our town regenerated. That’s why the long-term plans by the Midsteeple Project are so exciting and so important to the future of Dumfries.
“Obviously, the chance for the project to acquire properties on the High Street has come quicker than anyone thought and time is short.
“If we don’t act now, the chance to bring these properties back into use for the benefit of the community could be lost for a long time.”
On the Crowdfunder page Lynne Raverty added: “As someone who remembers what a lovely little town it was when I moved to Dumfries in the 1970s, I can’t describe how disappointing it is to see it decline in the last 40 years. Onwards and upwards!”