Case study: Ochiltree Community Hub

How did the project begin and what community need(s) was it seeking to address?

The Ochiltree Community Hub (OCH) is a SCIO Charity, formed in October 2014, and has 11 local residents on its Trustee Board. The OCH was formed after East Ayrshire Council announced that they were closing the village’s community centre and library, leaving the rural community with no access to facilities or services to improve health, wellbeing and inclusion.

OCH was then established to deliver these critical services by way of creating a community hub for all. The vision of the OCH was the establishment of a new, well-used, high-profile, multi-purpose and connected community hub that promotes and improves health and wellbeing, education, community cohesion and togetherness.

How did you source funding and support for the project?

The community raised £1.8m through donations, a part-time cafe and applying for grants. The Hub’s main source of funding came from Big Lottery, and the project also received support from others including Ayrshire Leader and The Robertson Trust.

When the facility opened, the Hub created multiple income streams from a café, lets, events and hires to support the Hub going forward. The Hub also uses Tesco Community Grants, Amazon Smile and other small grants to help fund the facility.

How did the project progress from inception to delivery? What obstacles did you overcome and what were the major milestones?

The old community centre and library was demolished in 2016.  Once funding was sourced, OCH purchased the land previously occupied by the council facility. Construction began in 2018 with completion following 1 year later.

The design of the hub was informed by a community survey. At the heart of the facility is a vibrant and bustling café. Spaces for community events was also incorporated, as was a large a sports hall and versatile meeting spaces. The building is also fully accessible throughout to ensure that it’s a welcoming space for everyone in the village and the wider Ochiltree and Skares rural area. 

In terms of obstacles that we overcame, there were a number of rejections from funders to contend with, however the learning from each application helped in future successful applications.

Another obstacle came in the form of COVID – the Hub was only operational for 9 months before it closed due to the onset of the pandemic. This has a had a huge impact on the goals and opportunities for the Hub since opening.

How did you involve the community in your project?

The community has been involved with the project since the outset:

  •  The trustees are all village people.
  • A community survey took place to ensure that the Hub reflects the needs of the community.
  • The Hub and other local community groups continue to issue questionnaires to the community to maintain engagement on a number of topics.
  • The Hub has a large number of volunteers from the community and has hired 60% of its staff from the village with the remaining coming from outlying villages.
What has been the impact of the project on the community? 

The Hub’s opening has been a catalyst for change within the village. Not only has the amount of local spend in Ochiltree increased, but there are also now a number of community organisations working together to make village life as best as it can be. The Hub has inspired a range of new local projects, including planting gardens and encouraging wildlife. The Hub has also increased village socialisation and wellbeing by offering events such as bingo, ceilidhs and more. 

What’s next for your project? 

Ochiltree recently became a member village of the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere and we are looking forward to working with the community to deliver new opportunities from this.

To learn more about Ochiltree Community Hub, check out their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.