Case study: The Swan, Banton

What is the history of the building, monument or area?

The Swan has stood proudly at the Banton village crossroads for over 170 years, geographically and metaphorically at the heart of the village.

An oasis during the temperance years (ending in 1967), bus loads of people from nearby dry towns would still indulge in a dram at The Swan. Today it serves the same purpose as a place to come together and put your cares aside.

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

When The Swan was threatened with demolition in 2016, the village very quickly came together to save the building. Losing the only pub in our small rural village (which had already lost its post office and only shop) would have been devastating. Within 48 hours of news of possible demolition reaching the village, People United for Banton (P.U.B.) had formed to take forward a plan to save the pub.

How did you source funding and support for the project?

In December 2017, the Scottish Land Fund awarded People United for Banton in excess of £180,000 to buy The Swan, making it the first community-owned pub in Scotland. Generous grants from both Big Lottery Community Assets, Kelvin Valley LEADER and The Clothworkers Foundation enabled the extensive renovations necessary for the redevelopment. The Plunkett Foundation and Community Shares Scotland also provided smaller amounts of funding and invaluable support.

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

The project began with the formation of a steering group which was then constituted with guidance from Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire (VANL). Further guidance was also sought from Business Gateway and initial contact was made with potential funders.

We held initial community consultations, which established need and led to feasibility funding. This then led to a successful funding application to the Scottish Land Fund for the purchase of the building, match-funded with community fundraising events and crowdfunding. 

A design team was appointed who again worked closely with the community and funding was secured for the renovations. After tenders came back £400k over our budget, an unexpected additional round of fundraising and value engineering was required. This reduced the scope of the building work and delayed the renovations by several months.

The second major obstacle was the coronavirus lockdown which hit 2 weeks before the completion of the build was scheduled. This complicated and delayed handover and meant that it was a further 5 months before The Swan could open its doors.

How did you involve the community in your project?

The project was driven by community need, and community consultation and involvement guided every step of the process. The Swan is proudly community-owned with over 280 shareholder members. The steering group was made up entirely of members of the community and continuously consulted and engaged the wider community. The wider community were also heavily involved in fundraising efforts including crowdfunding efforts and numerous events.

Our architects, Bruach Designs, supported extensive community consultation and engagement at each stage of the design. This included surveys, interactive presentations, village gatherings, online discussions and a half-day workshop with the children at Banton Primary School. The final proposal was presented back to the village at a public meeting and met with massive enthusiasm.

The community remained heavily involved in the construction process with regular updates from the contractors, Premier Construction, who also organised visits around the site. Before the plasterboard was installed, Banton’s children were even invited to write well wishes on to the walls.

What has been the impact of the project on the community? 

It is hard to overstate the impact the transformation of The Swan has had on Banton. It is a source of immense pride and a constant reminder of the power of a united community. The project has restored faith in the village, reversed the pattern of decline and sparked additional investment. Banton is now home to a new village shop, holiday accommodation and a cluster of creative businesses which together increase local sustainability. It has also inspired subsequent community-led initiatives, including the procurement of a new community-designed play park and a community defibrillator. Most importantly, Banton is an exciting and attractive place to live again.

What’s next for your project? 

The Swan has received excellent reviews and high praise from locals and visitors alike since reopening its doors and we were the proud recipients of the inaugural My Place Award for Sustainability. We’ll continue building on this initial success to secure a thriving and sustainable future for The Swan.

Now that COVID restrictions have lifted, we have been able to develop our community events. We have a regular programme of activities including ‘kids cafes’ for primary and secondary age groups, a pre-school group, a seniors café and regular music nights. We will also continue to develop our series of pop-up events which have so far included bookshops, makers markets, a hot chocolate hut, a community collection point for Ukraine, a toy and gift shop and an exhibition space.

At the heart of all our plans is an ongoing desire to serve the community and offer the warmest of welcomes to visitors from near and far.

To learn more about The Swan, follow them on Facebook.