CONRAD ALDRIDGE reports on the meeting that produced an early sketch of this
35 people met at the Reading Room in Kenmore on 30 January and another 10 sent in apologies for not being able to attend to discuss the Taymouth Estate. That’s twice as many people as were at the last meeting. There is definitely a growing determination and enthusiasm to get the Taymouth Estate into safe community hands.
The discussions were wide ranging over six hours and were expertly facilitated by Tony and Liz Hodgson who transformed the potential chaos into a manageable and clear harmony. Grateful thanks go to them for this valuable contribution.

Several key principles emerged during the day to which everyone agreed. These were:

*  enshrining ‘community-led, for community benefit’;
*  adding value, not competing with existing provisions;
*  meeting real needs;
*  meeting exemplary standards;
*  responding to new threats/creating new opportunities;
*  assuring sustainable/ethical integrity.
It was recognised to be important to prioritise any projects that are helpful and desirable to the local community so that local benefits are clear and, especially, deliverable. The issue of just who is embraced within that ‘local community’ definition is a critical one needing investment in dialogue and exploration; attched to it are issues of scaling, diversity and attraction of resources.

As community participation builds up it was recognised that those engaged will increasingly determine many of the projects and priorities
The current high dependency upon tourism was acknowledged as was its vulnerability to economic conditions and factors like peak oil making travel unaffordable.
Accordingly it was seen that any visitor accommodation proposals should not alienate or displace local accommodation providers already experiencing a surplus of beds. Thus it would be vital to be clear about segmenting the accommodation needs and markets.
It was thought it may be important to get ‘attraction activities’ going well enough to stimulate increasing visitors to create pressure for further accommodation. Educational projects, for example, might be able to fill non-weekend vacancies.
Broadly it was seen that increasing the non-tourist sectors in the economy would make the situation more robust.

Ideas Shower
It was acknowledged that any suggestions made were the restricted products of the imagination of those present, and that a richer crop existed beyond the walls of the venue. Among suggestions put forward were:

To call the project “The Taymouth Estate Community Project” and to develop a recognisable “Taymouth” Brand which could be applied to all the project’s activities and become known for its social benefit, for being sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly.
To construct affordable housing and work space accommodation for local people and others - the site lends itself well to show-house (Scottish Timber) display, as well places for a mixed-community housing development within its acreage;
To promote the development of social and other enterprises and assist their growth by providing business starter resources, such as workshops/units close to homes for local residents. Provision for caravan parking and camping was seen as an early money earner offering a much sought-after amenity for visitors;
To become a home for a Woodlands and Reforestation Visitor Centre – with associated timber product design, manufacture and sales, and to encourage associated ‘Explorer Hotels’ built in woodlands and forests to attract visitors;
To provide, in the restored castle, serviced office spaces to organisations seeking advantage from association with the Taymouth project;
To create an Events business, and an Outdoor Pursuits business and prepare plans to improve local access/pathways/bridges etc;
To encompass relevant training (related to hospitality, the environment, skills training and more);
To open a Restaurant and a Banqueting Suite;
To evaluate the bottling and “Taymouth” branding of local water drawing upon the on site natural spring.

Business Ideas Elaboration
The meeting also agreed to form an initial team to move things along and attempt to elaborate on the business ideas being considered. Its tasks will be to get proposers to describe their business project and to assess its start up and running costs and earning potential.
Once this is accomplished a broad summary of a plan for the estate could be used as the basis for assembling a wider proposition for the Administrator to consider.
There isn’t much time to present our case, maybe a month or two, before a decision is made about who next will own the Taymouth Estate.
The team members are: Peter Ely, Wes McGregor, Cindy Brook, Willie Lindsay, Simon Pepper, Rosie Hooper, Neil Hooper, Allan Maun and Brendan Murphy

Conrad Aldridge can be contacted 01738 860 767; CLOAKING


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