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Breathing new life into Whithorn

The South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH) teamed up with the community organisation ‘All Roads Lead to Whithorn’ (ARLTW) to address the long-standing vacancy of the former Grapes Hotel, which had been derelict for over 30 years. 

SOSCH carried out thorough analysis of local housing demands, and worked closely with Dumfries and Galloway Council, the property’s private owner, The Scottish Land Fund and The Scottish Government to take a comprehensive approach to town centre regeneration.

The project demonstrated several key transferable lessons for other regions in Scotland:

Community Intervention: Initially, the community had not considered housing as a viable redevelopment option. The project highlighted how housing could facilitate the acquisition and transformation of derelict properties.

Stakeholder Engagement: Successfully negotiating with the private owner and securing funding was critical. This engagement empowered the community to take ownership.

Alignment with Local Needs: By aligning the project with local needs, the development supported broader community goals, such as sustaining the local primary school with new family homes and providing housing for older residents.

 

Benefits of an Empty Homes Program

A dedicated funding stream for empty homes can significantly enhance project viability. In the Grapes Hotel project, the Town Centre Living Fund was pivotal. This fund, sourced from Council Tax on Second Homes, was instrumental in promoting town centre living and repurposing empty homes.

By taking a ‘town centre living’ approach, the project brought economic benefits to the area by creating jobs and ongoing community investment from housing income, social benefits through enhanced community space such as the redeveloped town hall, and health benefits by providing high-quality and affordable homes.