‘Save Bellfield’ Public Meeting

A minute of the public meeting held on
Saturday 16th April 2016 at TRIBE PORTY

Present: 70 people were in attendance (see attendance sheet)

1. Introduction

Alastair Cameron opened the meeting by welcoming those present, and explaining the reason for calling the public meeting, namely to explore the possible community buy out of Portobello Old Parish Church. He stressed that this was still very much at an exploratory stage and looked forward to hearing people’s thoughts and views on the proposal. AC outlined the proposed structure of the meeting, before introducing Justin Kenrick.

2. Background, Outline and Possible Paths Ahead

Justin Kenrick touched on the history of the church and described the background to the proposal. He went on to suggest that 3 questions needed answered:

  • What community needs does it meet now and should also meet going forward?
  • What can make it financially viable/sustainable?
  • How can we ensure that it also meets Funders requirements?

JK encourage the meeting to think about creatively about the use of space and outlined one strand of ideas for those present to respond to and discuss.

3. Practical route map to a community buy out

Ian Cooke then summarised what activity had taken place prior to the meeting, and information which had been gleaned. This covered contact with the Church of Scotland (who own the Church), information about the Scottish Land Fund (which was now open to urban communities such as Portobello) and the Community Right to Buy. He suggested 5 issues which need to be addressed:

  • Does the community have the capacity?
  • Do we have the time, energy to put in the effort?
  • Can we identify and demonstrate community need and community support?
  • Will the Church sell to the community?
  • How would we pay for it?
  • How do we run it?

4. Questions & Answers in response to presentations

The Chair then opened the meeting to those present, and a number of questions were asked about the timing of the Community Right to Buy in relation to the church going on to the market, whether it would be easier to use an existing, constituted organisation, and whether the graveyard site would be a problem. There was a suggestion to access support via the Princes Trust, the challenge of ongoing maintenance, and whether the Community Right to Buy was linked to the Scottish Land Fund.

5. Open Space session

Eva Schonveld then introduced an open space session which involved those present moving between different points within the hall to comment and make suggestions in relation to the following 5 questions: commenting

  • Who are the actual and potential users?
  • What might we use the buildings for?
  • What physical changes to the buildings?
  • How do we make this financially viable?
  • Local engagement around this process?

The 5 facilitators / recorders fed back on the key themes to emerge from the open space session, and it was agreed to make a written record of all the points recorded.

6. Final Actions, Endorsements, Next Steps

Alastair Cameron then asked the meeting to vote on the establishment of a community organisation to pursue the community buy-out proposal and endorse a draft constitution which had been circulated. This motion was passed unanimously by the 47 people who were still in attendance.

It was suggested that the name of the organisation be Friends of Bellfield and this was also approved unanimously.

AC then asked for nominations to the Committee of Friends of Bellfield. It was explained that Ian Cooke, Justin Kenrick, Alastair Cameron, Eva Schonveld, and Tim Warren had carried out the work to date, and all 5 agreed to serve on the committee. The following people were also nominated and agreed to serve on the committee: Dani Trudeau, Beth Cross, Shauna MacDonald, Kirsta MacDonald-Scott, Raymond Albeson, Thea McMillan and Morag Donaldson.

Chris Booth offered to create a website, and Jennifer Elliot offered to set up a Facebook page. Dani Trudeau will create a Google form to log interest and Thea McMillan will try to find out what children and young people think and want. The meeting also welcomed Shauna MacDonald’s suggestion to have a drama performance on 26 June, focused on the life of John Muir.

The meeting concluded by agreeing the following immediate steps:

  • To write to General Trustees of Church of Scotland with update.
  • To open a bank account
  • To convene a committee meeting as soon as possible
  • To distribute information and widen out discussion
  • To draft and submit a SLF application for development costs

The chair thanked everyone for attending and participating, and closed the meeting.

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