Officially a charity!!!

As of 31st October 2017, Community Moorings Scotland is officially registered with The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). This has been a six-month process from drafting the constitution as a member-led charity to applying for and adapting our charity application.

But now we can officially say that charity no. SC047877 is Community Moorings Scotland, known as ‘CMS’.

This is great news as not only does it give us our official stamp of recognition as a worthwhile charity and approves our charitable aims, it also allows us to enter into contracts, open bank accounts and trade. Basically it is a big fat ‘GO’!!! 

Full details of our charitable purposes, our ‘objects’ and Constitution will be added to the website in due course, along with trustee details and more officialdom now we are registered, however for now we just wanted to spread the word about this great news 🙂

Awesome funding news for Narrowboat Farm

As many of you know i applied for a farm start-up grant back in October. Well it took a while but we have now been awarded the grant which in a round-about way is also great news for Community Owned Moorings (COMs).

Why? Well as Narrowboat Farm (NBF) is the pilot site for COMs, it is down to NBF to put in place an infrastructure to host the first COMs site. Apart from all the glorious (or long-winded, beurocratic, boring paperworky) permissions required, the biggest barrier to COM sites is set-up costs. Once a site is set up and boaters are paying fees, then all should be hunky-dory but access to land and putting in services is an expensive business. Plus, once the pilot site has proven it’s worth, it will be easier to attract investment in further sites.

We’ve managed to get a bare minimum infrastructure in place at NBF but now the grant will help expand this so there is sufficient water, electric, parking, storage, paths etc to service a number of boats. It’s still not going to be like turning up to one of SC’S shiny flagship sites, but then that’s partly the point of this project…

The other side to this is that the farm grant will give the required boost to get the land-based market garden enterprise up and running. What has this got to do with COMs? Well, a lot. The land-based enterprise is intended to link with the moorings and bring freight (on a very small scale) back to the canals for the first time in many years. 200 years ago farms built jetties and loaded their produce on to boats to go to local markets. Well we want to bring this back.

Linking the land project with the COM project widens the benefits of COMs vastly and brings wider community benefits. Think heritage, think tourism, think local food, think eco-friendly social enterprise… Without this it is harder to justify the project to supporters, there simply aren’t enough of us boaters to justify the investment (yet, that is!!!! COMs will hopefully increase the numbers of boaters and boat movements).

So great news and another step towards making the vision a reality 🙂

Iain

Getting to the nitty gritty with SC and prices!!!

So our last interaction with SC was an email from us on the 16th January. Last week we received a response from Deborah Burns who is our main point of contact now. You can read and comment on the latest response at the end of this document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vC5wjJC3fCMyWza9gqHW-4qeyTQkvhMIfl5u8_5I2lM/edit?usp=sharing

But to cut to the chase, here are the first actual costs they have given us in the email:

I was looking for some form of alternative proposal from you in terms of what rent you could afford to pay based on your appraisal projections.  In order to move this point forward I have a suggestion (subject to contract);

Basing mooring prices on the market rates for the closest comparable we have at Causewayend I would anticipate you should be able to generate the following income;

Residential mooring (2 of) – £5400 per annum

Commercial mooring (1 of) – £2,700 per annum

Leisure mooring (3 of) – £6,435 per annum (assuming 15m length)

TOTAL BASE RENTAL (exc any income generated from visitor moorings) – £14,535, say £14,500 per annum so the base rental you will pay is 10%  – £1,450 per annum.

Phased in over 3 years;

Year 1 –  £450 per annum

Year 2 – £1,000 per annum

Year 3-10 – £1,450 per annum

If the income you generate from the moorings exceeds £17,000 per annum then you will pay 10% of this additional income to SC in addition to the base rent.

At year 10 the base rent will be reviewed on the basis of this calculation or alternatively we can build in an RPI inflationary rise at year 10 to the base rent.

So at last we have some numbers to work off. On face value, this seems like a useful arrangement for us on two counts. Firstly the amount payable is as a percentage of our income and thus helps cash-flow (however the minimum cost is a pain), and secondly it is phased in over three years which will help our cash flow as it will take some time to ‘fill the bank’ with boats.

 

Heads of Terms Negotiations Continue

The process of negotiating terms under which we can trade as ‘Community Moorings Scotland’ (or something more snappy) began with their first edition on 5th August and has gone back to them with our edit of 5th October, then back to us with their edit of 10th November. Then they decided they didn’t want to negotiate anymore! Well, they were trying to make out that they had negotiated enough and we should sign something off.

So we have just emailed them back with the issues we see within their latest version.

If you would like to see the various versions and edits, go to this google document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vC5wjJC3fCMyWza9gqHW-4qeyTQkvhMIfl5u8_5I2lM/edit?usp=sharing

 

Narrowboat Farm has been dredged :-)

After weeks of procrastination, Scottish Canals have finally dredged the bank along the length (175m) of Narrowboat Farm! Oh and i’m going to repeatedly call it Narrowboat Farm to try to gt the name to stick!

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Look at this gorgeous gloop waiting to be shaped into a sumptuous edge:

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OK, you can tell i’m excited. So back to reality, they did two days of dredging so i’m not sure how thorough a job that is, but they also peeled back the weed on the off-side too. Given that the state of the canal here was OK to start with, i’m feeling pretty confident about the mooring potential for this stretch of canal. They even left the dredger in the canal overnight and boats could get past OK, so we could even be looking at the potential of widebeams being able to moor and other widebeams get past.

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This has now given a nice clear, rather wide looking stretch:

dredge2

dredger

I’m not 100% sure if they have finished as of writing because i only managed to get a quick chat with them at the end of day 1. I’m also not too sure how long they spent on Friday and today (Monday 27th June 2016). The plan now will be to shape the dredgings nicely and grass seed it to make a tidy edge.

Our meeting with Historic Environment Scotland is now due for the 1st July. Nic of narrowboat Billy is coming along to assist in this meeting. We will then get a good steer on permittable structures but even if things don’t go well initially with them, i am confident that we can establish bankside moorings without requiring their permission. That would also avoid any issues with Council planning permission until we request any residential status for moorings.

Also behind the scenes, myself and Alastair have been working on the spreadsheets to work out mooring costs etc. As well as this Katie Hughes has prepared a temporary licence to occupy meaning we can use the bank until November, by which time we will have hopefully completed the necessary paperwork to make everything official.

So we are still gradually creeping our way towards a first Community-Owned mooring site 🙂

So when can you bring your boats and moor i hear you ask? And how will moorings be assigned? Well my best answer to that is that until the Autumn anyone is welcome to visit and to peg in. Our temporary licence states that any boat may moor for up to two weeks then disappear for at least a week, it also stipulates that no residential use is permitted and all liabilities fall on us during this period. Mooring conditions are rather challenging given the current bankside conditions and i cannot recommend it on safety grounds. I have to say that really, but we’re going to do it. And others are too. And you can do it too if you are happy to take the risk. Although i would urge you to get in touch and get a helping hand for tying up. Especially any widebeamers, please get in touch before mooring.

Come the Autumn when we hopefully have everything official in place and we will look for early adopters of moorings then we will also have the agreed structure in place to agree on mooring costs and allocations. I would envisage a membership system of a charity entitled ‘Community Moorings Scotland’ or similar. We will probably work under a majority vote system for decisions. But more on that to come… happy days 🙂

Wow, you won’t believe what just happened!!!

OK, so how else was i going to make you open an update about paperwork! Click-bait ahoy!!!

Does anybody have a particular penchant for paperwork? Please come forward! We have lots to do! If anyone can pop their heads up and say ‘i’ll help with that one’ that would be really appreciated. Even if you only have an hour or two to do a bit of research one evening and send in your findings, that would be great! So before you fall asleep half way through this update and close the page 😉 please please find one that sparks your interest and contribute, whether it is funding, how moorings are run or how to pitch our project. Please please please!

In no particular order…

The ‘vision’ document for Scottish Canals and eventually funders/others: Steve Dunlop requested a very clear and detailed vision document detailing the vision for Community Moorings and their structure and governance. So i have made a start and if you are feeling helpful, please click on this link and add comments to help with the text etc. We already have this document which was sent through to SC to kick things off, but it needs more meat.

Incorporation: after a very useful meeting with Business Gateway’s social enterprise advisor, a fairly clear way forward in terms of structure and governance has appeared. The plan is to incorporate ‘Community Moorings Scotland’ as a Scottish Incorporated Charitable Organisation (SCIO).  Yes it is a mouthful but here is why it works:

  • It avoids registering twice and having to report to companies house and a charity regulator as most charities have to. You only deal with the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).
  • It restricts the operation of the Community Moorings company to operating moorings and reinvesting any profits for the good of the moorings and other canal-related uses that we define (do we want to fund maintenance???).
  • Charitable organisations are heavily regulated and thus transparency and focus is achieved
  • Charitable organisations are more likely to receive funding for their purposes

In addition to this it is proposed to incorporate the land-based enterprise as a Community Interest Company (CIC). A CIC is a unique type of social enterprise that sits in a gap between charities and commercial businesses. CIC’s are free to trade, to respond to opportunities and in many ways behave like a corporate entity. There are however, two key differences:

  1. Assets owned by the company are held in an asset lock which secures those assets to applications for the good use of community.
  2. Limitations applied to dividend and interest payments made to shareholders and financiers ensure a profit can be made, but the primary focus remains on achieving benefit for the community

Funding bids: it is time to bring some money in to get this going! I have already completed a bid for the Central Scotland Green Network ‘Ideas Fund’. If you like, you can read the application here. I’ll find out shortly if we have been shortlisted for the Dragons-Den style pitch on 21st June. This is a bit of a ‘punt’ but it is a smallish pot of money (£5000) and it is particularly aimed at projects at early stages. Also, if short-listed for a pitch, it forces me to get the vision document sorted and get a pitch sorted! All useful things going forward. I have also been to meet the West Lothian Leader Funding committee who are very keen on us putting in an expression of interest and we could perhaps aim towards the Autumn deadline for a bid. I think we would have a good chance of up to £100,000 from them. The useful thing with Leader funding is that although like most funding they will only pay 50%, it is possible to get the other 50% from another funding pot e.g. Big Lottery Fund or the Heritage Lottery Fund (West Lothian is one of the 3 priority development areas for this fund).

Constitutions and Terms: For the SCIO and CIC company structures we have to write up our constitution and define charitable goals etc. Does anyone have experience of this? We will also require to create our own terms of how moorings are used and we need to go back to step 1 and consider the current SC rules for moorings and how we want to adapt these. Do we want to enforce overstaying on moorings? Do we want to be strict about mess? Do we want to allow sub-letting etc etc. The vibe from Katie Hughes is to have the rules and regulations as close as possible to theirs but let’s look at whether this works for us and how we would like our moorings to run…

May update on Narrowboat Farm!

So firstly, ‘Narrowboat Farm’ it is! No longer ‘field E of Park Farm’ or ‘Iain’s mud’ or whatever haha!

narrowboat-farm-draft-logo

This name reflects the dual-purpose nature of the site, both to moor boats and to create a local food supply. And the link between the two – using the canal for food transport in this area again for the first time (please correct me) in nearly 200 years! We have a draft logo for the site, feedback welcome on this but it seems to be very popular so far. The name and logo are also aimed at non-boaters, hence the obviousness of it and not worrying about the fact it doesn’t represent all types of boats that will be there. No offence intended to widebeams, cruisers and submarines 🙂

Here is a photo-based update on what has been going on at the site:

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All the physical work on site was on hold until the farmer came in to harrow, sow and roll the field to make a lovely meadow. Finally he made it in a couple of weeks ago and sowed this wildlife-friendly meadow-style mix. Jonathan of Tamarisk @ Bowling has been hugely helpful in advising on the farming side of things and is to thank for the amazing grass mix that has gone down. It should look pretty spectacular come summertime. As long as we get some rain soon to get the seed going! Here is the machine in all its oil-guzzling glory:

We’ve planted 2000 Willow cuttings (thanks to Vicky & Mike for helping) around the main areas of the field in the diagram below:

field-layout

The diagram above shows four main growing areas in the right half of the field, which will be broken out one-by-one starting this Autumn. There is a 15m wide strip along the canal as a garden space for boaters. There is parking and shed-building etc space near the field entrance.

We’re struggling for enough rain just now for the grass and willow to flourish but there are the first positive signs:

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Here is what the field looks like right now:

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Katie Hughes has sent through a draft ‘licence to occupy’ which should give us permission to use the site informally while we get all the lovely paperwork and permissions together to make this thing more permanent. The initial draft came through with very strict time restrictions (our boat can stay up to a week at a time, all other boats 48hrs) so i’m currently negotiating to make this more realistic and fair. Watch this space.

The dredger is STILL sat about 100m away and is still due to dredge the canal along the field. However disappointingly Richard Miller said that it wouldn’t be a full dredge along the 175m strip but a test dredge whatever that means. Rather frustratingly it seems that people are shouting louder for the dredger through near Glasgow and i suppose whoever shouts the loudest gets it…i would have thought if there was one site that could really justify a good dredge, it was this one. But i’m biased so hey-ho. Alasdair Hamilton from SC has said that next week is the likely weekfor dredging. So please don’t come and leave your boat tied up here just yet!

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We couldn’t resist tieing up for a couple of nights this week to ‘test’ the electric and water and width etc etc. Well that’s my excuse, i just wanted to be the first boat to tie up there for a night or two! I’m glad to say we got into the bank without too much trouble, but it does require a leap of faith of about 1m or so and gang-plank useage but that is to be expected. While we were there Eric on Nimbus came in. Nimbus is a cruiser and if anything got a wee bit closer in than us which is a surprise. So it seems that even without a dredge we could be looking not too bad for the condition of the bank…

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Whilst we were there a couple of hire boats passed and i was pleasantly surprised how much room there was. I can honestly say with our boat moored up there would be room for two narrowboats to pass each other (but probably only just). That bodes well for being able to moor up wider vessels.

I’ve made a few gang planks that can stay on the bank to help with anybody wanting to tie up before we have any structures in place. I’ve gone with a 6″,12″ and 18″ mix depending on how daring you are feeling! They are grip-painted too.

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A (surprisingly) very positive meeting with SC bigwigs!

Early this month myself (Iain Withers) and Alastair Martin met up with Steve Dunlop and Katie Hughes for what we thought may be a crunch meeting revealing the ‘sting in the tail’ of the so-far positive response from SC. I’m happy to report that the cautious optimism about SC’s support of the project can happily continue after the meeting!

Here are my meeting notes for your perusal…

9th May 2016: Meeting with Steve Dunlop & Katie Hughes

  • So i reckon the no.1 thing i came away from the meeting with was that they do actually want it to happen and there isn’t going to be a financial sting in the tail. They have clearly stated that there is no (direct) financial incentive for them.
  • They were very keen that the project is done in the right way, with the right structure, transparently and independent of the SC brand. All of which is obviously good!
  • They want a more detailed, clear vision document which goes into some detail in terms of the public-good outcomes of the project. They want a strong document for their use an that can be used to clearly explain to others why they are supporting this project. They want it to paint a bigger picture of what this project can do long-term and what the social benefits are.
  • They want us to put together a clear time-scale for achieving elements of the project and they want to use that to form the basis of a series of meetings to put in their diary going forward. They want the next meeting to focus on two elements: 1. The vision document and clarity of social outcomes and 2. the practicalities of the moorings.
  • Steve repeatedly said in principle it is great but the devil is in the detail and they want to make sure that things are done right, done right first time and fit in with their corporate compliances etc.
  • On the physical structures side of things, Steve said he was happy for us to innovate and look at intermediate solutions somewhere between the SC last 50 years and the pallets and beer kegs floating about solution. They would feed this down to Brian and we would be able to negotiate structures based around our on-the-ground management/maintenance capabilities.
  • On the paperwork side, we would probably be looking at a lease of the land (25 yrs suggested) and not a trading agreement. Trading agreements would open a whole field of corporate procurement. They talked about the set-up with Pinkston and said they were happy to show us that arrangement (but maybe without sensitive numbers) and use that as the basis for our agreement.
  • On the structure side of things, they thought CIC would be most appropriate on top of the CLG to ensure an asset lock in place. Pinkston have this. (this article gives a good introduction to the different social enterprise structures)
  • They are concerned about the aesthetics and feel that anything negative would reflect on SC.
  • They want to make sure that our Ts & Cs reflect their policies and priorities and that there would be any major discrepancies so people couldn’t ‘get away with’ doing something unacceptable just because they were on our site.

Alastair also picked up on the ‘devil in the detail’ part and this is where perhaps the challenge comes. Katie Hughes will probably want to have close control on how the Community Moorings operate. She will probably not want them to undercut SC moorings vastly. She will also probably want to control how moorings are used, both in terms of commercial/leisure/resi being used for strictly these purposes and also in terms of the T’s & C’s of moorings use. So it would appear the challenge may not be permission and financial, but may come in how much control we have over our own moorings. That is probably where most negotiations will be required.

But all in all very positive – onwards and upwards!

Latest Opportunities To Help: May 2016

This is the first of the updates on how to help. I’ll put one main post per month and update that regularly as new opportunities arise or are completed…

Specific dates/times for help:

9th May: Meeting with Katie Hughes and Steve Dunlop to talk through the Linlithgow site, business plan and funding. Currently Iain Withers & Alastair Martin to attend.

12th May: Meet the Funders event will take place on Thursday 12 May 2016 in the Council Headquarters Waverley Court, 4, East Market Street, Edinburgh from 5pm to 8pm. This will be a good opportunity to put the project to funders and assess our eligibility to a lot in one go. Another body or two to attend this would be appreciated…

Behind The Scenes:

a) The Business Plan: We need to get a solid business plan together for the moorings and have to present elements of it to Scottish Canals on 9th May. This will also help set costs and help us work out how much we need to charge for customers. The obvious goal is to make these moorings cheaper and better, and getting the numbers right will tell us if the moorings can be cheaper and by how much so we can then decide how much we want to charge customers. I’ve kicked off a spreadsheet to try and get the numbers together, if you could have a look and comment or get in touch with anything on there i’ve forgotten or if you can find some helpful numbers: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1oo9kRMQKz41Gsty8rvHv1QKeGwMva-JbJy6RmCibnHs/edit?usp=sharing

b) Site assessments: As i am pretty much fully committed to getting the Linlithgow site up and running, it will need to fall to other people to help assess other potential sites for community moorings. It was suggested that Twechar would be a very good first site. If someone is willing to further assess that site, please get in touch and we can coordinate that.

c) Rules, regulations, terms etc etc. We will need to create our policies and procedures for how the moorings are used. So for now collating other similar info from other moorings or similar projects would be really useful. For example: conditions of mooring, rules/regs in terms of visitor mooring useage, procedures for dealing with any potential conflicts.

On The Ground:

Soon there will hopefully be a flurry of activity again on the Linlithgow field site as and when the grass has been sown. I will update this post with latest ‘work parties’ or opportunities to graft on site.

Resources to look out for:

As i am pretty much skint, it would be really useful if you could all look out for cheap or free supplies of the following. These aren’t strictly for the moorings themselves, but for the farming project as well so this is more of a personal favour really, but will help the project move forwards anyway. Once we know what structures we are going to build for the moorings themselves, we can get searching for these materials. For now, could you look out for:

  1. Concrete slabs and aggregate/type 1/gravel to help put in a roadway and parking at the field entrance
  2. Timber to help build a shed/workshop on site
  3. Slabs or other rockery for paths around the site
  4. ‘Pretty things’ 🙂 Erm, so a bit vague but ideas for nice seating, decoration,landscaping etc on site
  5. Flowers/plants/trees to plant up on site
  6. A mini-digger and/or rotavator to help with groundworks

 

 

An update on the field near Linlithgow

boat-assing

After the recent lowland users meeting a group of us went to have a wee gander and get an update on progress at ‘the field’ or as Davie refers to it as the ‘Ponderosa’ which is a reference to this. I think Davie has grand ideas of the land!!!

Anyway, i want to give an update on this site and a flavour for the ‘masterplan’ here. Basically i have bought 4 acres with road access and it adjoins 175m of canal frontage which Scottish Canals owns the first 3m or so. So the moorings would be on Scottish Canal’s land but i intend to develop the land to service the moorings at hopefully very little cost to the moorings project to get a site up and running and ‘test the system’ for Community Moorings.

So here is a wee update on the moorings-side and the land-side of things:

Moorings (the canal bank basically)

  • A dredger is sat just along the canal at Park Bistro waiting to go to dredge the canal along the field. This is waiting on the Tug getting fixed and SC consulting with National Grid who own the pipeline that runs under the field. Alasdair Hamilton from SC is ‘hopeful’ this will be in the next few weeks. So a little vague on timings for that one.
  • Once the dredging is done then SC will ‘dip’ the canal again and that will give us the right info to assess the best method of mooring boats.
  • There is a wall running along at least part of the bank. From initial poking about there seems to be about a one foot straight drop into the water and then a stone shelf about two feet wide. So i’m wondering if this used to be a stone support for a wooden jetty? That could prove useful…
  • Once we know the structures we require, we will know if we will need Scheduled monument Consent from Historic (Environment) Scotland. If boats can get right up to a wall, this could be a major score as SMC would not be required, but that is wishful thinking
  • I have a meeting on 9th May with Katie Hughes and Steve Dunlop to present a more detailed business and management plan and go into more detail on the financials. This will be key to get the project financially viable.

Land

  • Electricity has been connected to the field and a very large (and very expensive) cable has been run under the field to the canal edge (but remaining off SC’s land to avoid them getting involved). This 3-phase supply will be beefy enough to expand to serve several boats if needed. An electrician is due in next week to connect it up and put it the first bollard with two 16-amp sockets to connect up.
  • Mains water has been run under the field too and to the canal bank (again off SC’s land) so there is a water supply too
  • In the next week or so the farmer we bought the land from is due in to sow grass seed. The temperature needs to raise above 7 degrees on average between day and night to allow the seed to grow.
  • Once the grass seed is down we have lots of building work to get on with. We plan to lay gravel and slabs as an entrance driveway and parking area near the entrance to the field
  • We plan to build a 10m x 6m shed initially to store equipment etc near the entrance.
  • I am planting 2000 willow trees as windbreaks and green hedging around the site. Willow grows really quick and is great for short-rotation coppicing.
  • We are going to erect a 6m diameter Mongolian Yurt as a ‘base’ to use so we don’t have to have our boats there to work away. There will be a cassette loo and shower (thanks Dougie and Bernadette!) too:

yurty

So lots going on through May on the ground and behind the scenes. If everything goes exactly to plan and on time (which it blatantly won’t haha) then we could have some useable moorings to try out come June. But don’t quote me on that, it is more likely to be the end of summer if i’m realistic!

The plan is to use half of the land to start a new farming/market garden venture called ‘Narrowboat Farm’:

narrowboat-farm-draft-logo

Through this, i will hopefully be able to access funding to build a proper big shed and give room for lots of nice wee craft and cottage industries to compliment the fruit n veg. The angle is to load and deliver by boat and use the link to this use of the canal for the first time in 150/200 yrs ago as a hook. This is where ‘Narrowboat Jack’ comes in who is a character we will use to market the produce whilst educating and entertaining folks:

narrowboat-jack-draft-logo

More on him to come… 🙂

In terms of help, there will be two main elements over the next month:

  1. Behind the scenes help: We need to get a comprehensive business plan in place which is robust enough to present to SC and funders and hopefully gives us some good news that the project is viable!
  2. On the ground help: If anyone fancies some graft there will be plenty of building and gardening work coming up and the more hands the better on that one!