A community benefit society has been established in Dumfries, with ambitious plans to take back control of its neglected town centre and become the first in Scotland to buy back part of its high street.

The Midsteeple Quarter Project is focused on eight mostly Georgian properties in the market town’s high street.

Under this initiative the society plans to take ownership of these mainly disused buildings. It will refurbish them and steward them for the community as affordable enterprise space at street level and rent out good-quality flats on the floors above.

The aim is to see local people developing their own high street as a “contemporary living, working, socialising, learning and enterprising hub”. The project team is currently in discussions with Dumfries & Galloway Council about how the scheme could mesh with the local development plan.

Kevin Reid, creative producer for the Midsteeple Quarter Project, said: “The project is a means by which local people can once more create a town centre that brings opportunity and prosperity for everyone in our community. It is a Community Benefit Society that everyone can join – it is like an old-fashioned ‘building society’; something that we all own and have an equal say in directing.”

The Stove Network, an artist-led organisation based in Dumfries, is the driving force behind these moves.

Source: Roger Milne, The Planner [online], 20 April 2018

Local Comment:  The Birkenhead and Tranmere Community Benefit Society (BATCOM) was created earlier this year.  This initiative in Scotland illustrates how ambitious projects can be delivered using this sort of mutual society approach. – Philip Barton