How it all began
Today it was announced that Lincluden Community Centre has been awarded over £375,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to develop a park known locally as Popeye’s Park. I speak to people every week that want to see parks improved in their local community and I’ve taken some time today to reflect on our journey, and how we’ve finally got there in Lincluden.
I first met folks in Lincluden four years ago and heard about the wonders of Popeye’s Park. How it used to be so busy at weekends with local families, as a space to socialise, have picnics, enjoy the boating pond and somewhere you could be proud of locally. Now, although it’s still a special space it is unloved and underdeveloped by today’s park standards.
After meeting residents who had so much passion, we encouraged people to set up into stronger community groups who would have more voice. Working with Dumfries and Galloway Council and DHGP we now see Lincluden Community Council and Maxwelltown North Tenants and Residents Association who are active and speaking up for the community in Lincluden.
We heard about the ambitions Lincluden Community Centre had for their centre and the wider community, and to put some of those plans into action the organisation restructured and are now a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. The organisation decided it was time to take the matter of getting something done in Popeye’s into their own hands. If I was to pin the success on one thing for the development of Popeye’s Park, it has been this - leadership from Lincluden Community Centre. This organisation had the confidence to say they were willing to do what is necessary to lead a project of this size with the support of CEIS and other local partners. I’m sure the group would agree, it’s not always fun. Working out the legal details about the land ownership of the park was difficult and very time consuming! However, the group have continued to chip away at this, for years, keeping it moving for and with the community.
Learning from others
Part of the process has been learning, and that has involved study visits to see other communities who had already made it happen. I remember during one of the study visits, the group reflecting on what a beautiful part of the world Lincluden is and I couldn’t help but agree with them. There may be challenges in North West Dumfries* , however the green space in Popeye’s Park is beautiful with the stunning selection of ancient trees and the river Nith just a stone throw away. Even Rabbie Burns thought so as he pen’d some of his world famous poems just a few footsteps away! However, bad things may be in your local area if you focus on the assets, the good stuff, then you have all the ingredients to make a really good thing happen.
Not everyone has time to come to meetings and it is important to keep everyone involved with such an exciting development. The group continued to keep the wider community involved with their plans through a theme group which became a parks steering group and is now quite simply ‘Friends of Popeye’s Park’. Meeting is on Monday night at 6pm if you want to come along at the centre – open to all. Community consultation has taken place over the years, whether it be a questionnaire at the annual litter pick event run or a formal door to door survey the group commissioned. The most important thing has been for community consultation to be an ongoing part of the project, to steer decisions to make sure the plans remain in line with want residents want to see here.
Today is Lincluden’s news. It’s their project and we’ll be there for any support they need – with the new tenders, press or for a moan! CEIS have been supporting communities for over 30 years and we aren’t going anywhere.
Thanks for letting us in on the conversation and for trusting our process would work for you Lincluden, it’s been fab. With all these skills, experience and of course a new play park to enjoy –the question is now that the group has achieved this - what’s next?
I can’t wait to find out.
*Five of the ten most deprived datazones (SIMD16 Quintiles) in Dumfries & Galloway are in North West Dumfries Ward. Four of them are in Lochside (SO1007576 Lochside and Lincluden 03, Rank 24; S01007577 Lochside and Lincluden 04, Rank 393; S01007578 Lochside and Lincluden 05, Rank 582; and S01007575 Lochside and Lincluden 02, Rank 625).
Seven of seventeen datazones in North West Dumfries are in Quintile 1, with a further five in Quintile 2.