Background to how the Applecross Forum was conceived and how it has developed during its 9 month gestation.
APPLECROSS TRUST – ESTATE PLAN CONSULTATION
1. The Applecross Trust (“the Trust”) commissioned Strath Caulaidh Ltd (SCL) and RuralDimensions (RD) in January 2016 to help them prepare a new 10-year plan for the Applecross Estate.
2. A key part of the work was to engage and consult early in the process with the community, local businesses and stakeholders to hear their views on the Trust specifically as well as their views about life and work on the Applecross peninsula generally.
3. The initial engagement work was undertaken in February and March 2016, having been advertised using posters placed at commonly-used locations around the community (e.g. community hall, GP surgery, Applecross Inn). It involved a range of one-to-one meetings in the village hall, in people’s homes or on the telephone (as suited) along with a workshop and group discussions at the hall. We captured a wide range of information in interviews with ~ 80 individuals in the community as well as from local organisations and regional stakeholders. Respondents were also added to an e-mail distribution list if they wished.
4. SCL and RD then undertook a Strategic Review of the Applecross Estate in April 2016, which involved preparing a wide range of outputs for the Trustees to consider including:
Summary of results from the initial consultation with the community and organisations, as outlined above.
Set of colour maps summarising the physical set up of the estate (soils, vegetation, deer information etc), the current land uses and the location of buildings.
Analysis of financial records, recent management activity, policies, minutes etc.
5. SCL and RD met three times with the Trustees over the period April – June 2016 to discuss the findings of the Strategic Review. The Trustees then spent further time in July and August 2016 digesting the findings of the Review and considering the next steps. This stage was informed by the production of some outline proposals for a new estate plan, based on our Review, with observations on how these could be designed to best support community aspirations also.
6. The Trustees concluded in August 2016 that they wanted to engage further with the community and local organisations before trying to produce the new estate plan. The Trustees felt that two key areas needed to be explored further:
The need for the Trustees to better understand what the community’s collective future aspirations were – this would help the Trustees ensure the new Trust estate plan was aligned, wherever possible, with a community ‘shared vision’ of the future.
The need for more regular, and more effective, communication between Trust and Community – this would help the Trust and Community better understand the challenges each other faced, and also explore future opportunities present.
APPLECROSS TRUST – ADDITIONAL COMMUNITY CONSULTATION
7. A public meeting was held at the Applecross Community Hall in September 2016. At this meeting, the Trustees confirmed their desire to commission SCL and RD to undertake a second round of community engagement work, with the aim of helping the community develop a Shared Vision and also helping to develop ideas for a new Discussion Forum:
a. Shared Vision: a short document could be created which describes the collective aspirations of the Applecross community, envisaging how the future might ideally look if key parties are able to work together towards a set of common goals. This document could become a reference point for all organisations operating in the Applecross area when making decisions that affect the community.
b. Discussion Forum: a new representative group could be formed to enable the Applecross community to hold a constructive and balanced debate on matters relating to community sustainability & development. Discussions would be guided by the Shared Vision, and should be underpinned by a set of processes designed to ensure a collective group view is developed on the key issues of the day. The views of the group (and the wider community, who could be consulted by the Forum directly on issues of major importance) could then be shared as required with all the key organisations involved in Applecross. The Trust would attend the meetings, given its highly influential position. A member of the Forum, chosen by its members, would represent the community at Trust meetings given the importance of these.
8. SCL and RD held a public drop-in event in November 2016, at which attendees were asked to provide their views on whether the ideas of a Shared Vision and a new Discussion Forum had support. A total of 36 attended the event, with the vast majority supporting the ideas.
9. SCL and RD then organised a sequence of 5 workshops in December 2016, at which community members were asked to complete a questionnaire and take part in group discussions. The responses would provide the material needed to develop a Shared Vision. A total of 40 people completed questionnaires. The questionnaires were designed using the materials gathered in from the Feb/Mar ‘16 consultation responses. They had 5 sections and we tested people’s level of support for a set of statements within each: (i) what Applecross residents have in common (ii) a broad vision of the future, (iii) top 10 community priorities, (iv) specific ideas for new initiatives / developments in Applecross to help the community address its priorities and (v) potential locations for new initiatives / developments1.
1 A summary of the consultation outputs is available to view on the new Applecross Forum website which is expected to go live on 6th November 2017
10. A public meeting was held in December ’16 to present the initial results from the questionnaires and discuss the next steps. There was strong interest in the results, which most attendees felt would be very useful in helping guide future community development. Next steps were agreed at the end of the meeting. However, a sequence of unforeseen delays to the project then arose, meaning that the community engagement work did not start again until the middle of February 2017.
The main findings from the community consultation exercise can be found using the link,
An analysis of various characteristics of the Applecross community (age, occupation etc) can be found using the link,
11. At a public meeting in late February 2017 at the community hall, the idea of developing a Shared Vision document using the December 2016 questionnaire responses was again discussed. The idea of forming a new Discussion Forum was also discussed again. However, SCL and RD also reminded the audience that the Trust was hoping to have its new estate plan drafted by April or May 2017. It was confirmed that time was therefore of the essence in developing the two key outputs proposed (Shared Vision / Discussion Forum).
12. A proposal to form a short-term Working Group was tabled by SCL and RD, the project consultants, at the public meeting. The Working Group would form only for 4 months, in response to the time constraints faced by the project, and would work on a small number of specific outputs to help the Trust move forwards with its new estate plan. The Group were asked to deliver two key outputs over the period March – June 2017: help produce a draft of the Shared Vision, for wider community consultation, and develop some proposals for how to form and operate the new Discussion Forum. It would also be asked to provide comment on an early draft of the new Applecross Estate plan before it went out to wider consultation in summer 2017.
13. A public meeting was held at the community hall in early March ’17 to seek members for the new Working Group. A total of 19 people put themselves forward for the group, of which 18 were able to attend the 4 Friday meetings in a row in March that were proposed. It was recognised that the process of self-selection was not ideal, but given the time constraints it was judged a good and important first step. It was agreed that the weight of numbers in the group and the spread of ages/interest/experiences of members would help make the group broadly representative and thus able, in principle, to provide the collective community views that the Trustees sought.
APPLECROSS COMMUNITY WORKING GROUP
PROGRESS TO DATE
14. The Working Group members met on four occasions in March 2017. It was proposed that the group would operate by allowing open and honest individual views to be put forward at meetings, but with written statements then being developed to put forward their collective viewpoint to the Trust. Discussions were facilitated by Dougie Campbell of SCL.
15. The Group focused in the first instance on producing a Shared Vision for the community to review. However, very early on it was apparent the group wanted to understand the constraints within which it was working when producing the vision. It was agreed that an Interim Statement should be produced and sent to the Trustees for a response. The statement included a set of 12 specific points the group felt it
useful to clarify. The statement was sent to the Trust at the end of March, and at the same time made available to the community via a Facebook link.
16. SCL organised a meeting between the Trust and the Working Group in Applecross in early May 2017. In advance of this, the Trust had provided a written initial response which the Working Group debated several days before. In preparation for the meeting with the Trust, the Working Group prepared a statement encapsulating their collective view of progress to date. At the meeting this Working Group statement was read out by Dougie Campbell. Then, Rodger Harvey-Jamieson responded on behalf of the Trust. After the meeting with the Trust, further clarifications were sought from them about some of the specific queries.
17. COMMUNITY UPDATE: The Working Group saw it as vital that the wider community was kept informed. In June 2017 they updated the community on its activities up to that point by delivering a printed summary to every house in Applecross.
A copy of the summary delivered to the Community can be opened via the link below,
18. COMMUNICATIONS: The Working Group felt it also needed to find more effective ways of communicating with the wider community so that its successor, the new Discussion Forum, can operate effectively in future. In June 2017, the Working Group therefore investigated options for creating a simple website to host all information relating to the Forum. It also proposed advertising Forum meetings in An Carranach, plus on local noticeboards. Work on the development of the website started in October 2017.
19. ESTATE PLAN: The Trust prepared a short overview of the proposed contents of its new estate plan in September 2017. It then met with the Working Group to seek feedback on it.
20. COMMUNITY ‘SHARED VISION’: The Working Group produced a Shared Vision document over the period August-October 2017, based on the wide-ranging discussions it had over the preceding 6 months. This document will be handed over to the new Forum when it starts up – see below – to enable them to take the ideas forward via local organisations as agreed.
21. APPLECROSS FORUM: In July 2017, the Working Group scoped out and produced a proposal for how the new Discussion Forum could be structured, and how members would be selected to join it. Refinements to the ideas were discussed in September and October 2017. The group decided it should deliver a presentation to all local residents on the topic of the Forum in November 2017. Members for the group will be sought at the meeting, in order to try and have the new Forum operating by January 2018 (at which point the Working Group would be disbanded).
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