A couple in the Scottish town of Dumfries are so desperate for a local FEC that they have decided to try and operate one for themselves.
So far, the team of two have spent six months and £13,500 of their £15,000 budget identifying two suitable sites for the FEC, one in a new building and the other in an undisclosed town centre property which could be revamped.
“Dumfries at the moment is, slowly but surely, turning into a ghost town. Every week there are more shops closing down, there are more people losing jobs and there seems to be nothing coming in to improve the situation,” said Laura Hamilton, the driving force behind the project. “One thing that Dumfries is desperate for is leisure activities which suit all ages, no just specific to one age range. If families want to go for a family day, they have to travel out of the town, with most decent activities being in Carlisle, Ayr or Glasgow.”
Hamilton’s ambition, however, has proven someway above her budget.
“We did originally plan for the centre to be a privately owned business, however after all our consultations, surveys and costings, we are looking at a total cost of around £1.4m, which is way over our planned budget,” she continued. “The problem with opening it as a privately owned business is that we would need to take out extensive loans to be able to afford the entire construction and launch of the business. This would also mean we would need to charge a lot more for entrance fees to the centre, which may mean that some residents may not be able to afford regular use of the facility, which really makes the entire project pointless, as this is here for all the community, not just the few.”
As such, Hamilton has now decided to launch the centre as a not-for-profit community business which will be owned, operated and run by the community, for the community.
“By launching the place as a not-for-profit, this means we will have access to a large range of funding and grants, we will not need to take out extensive loans, all income will be reinvested into the business, we will be able to charge much less for entry fees and the business will be managed by a board, for the benefit of the community, not for the benefit of one person’s profits.”
Feasibility studies, market research, consultations, property and land surveys, as well as meetings with designers and tours of similar projects have already taken place. The next step will be to draw up official plans, apply for planning permission and funding and develop a board to over-see the future of the facility. However, with only a £1,500 budget left, Hamilton will need significant investment for her FEC dreams to become reality.