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Minutes of January 2017 Meeting

Posted on 25 May, 2017 at 9:20

Minutes of Board Meeting of Assynt Foundation, 19th January 2017, Glencanisp Office, Lochinver

Meeting began 6pm

1. Present/In Attendance /Apologies

Present – Nigel Goldie (Chair) (NG), Stewart Hill (SH), Helen Simpson (HS), Jeanette McCarthy (JM)

In Attendance – Gordon Robertson (GR), Adam Pellant (AP), John Venters (JV), Rebecca Macleod (RM)

Apologies –Brendan O’Hanrahan (BOH), Mandy Haggith (MH)

Declarations of Interest: None

Minutes of Last meeting - were approved, NH asked that, in future, the Action List should be circulated as soon as possible after the meeting in order to give Directors and staff plenty of time to undertake the identified tasks. Action GR


2. Actions and Matters Arising

• Croft Creation – Timescales. NG advised the Board that this matter was to be discussed in depth at the away day. As MH and BOH were unable to attend this meeting, it was vital to have their input during a full Board discussion. This will clarify the technical and legal procedures and also the financial implications, in order to ensure that the agreed outcomes are finalised. Thereafter, communication with AF members will take place in an agreed form, as their approval will be required. GR undertook to ascertain budget costs for the legal work involved with township creation. Action GR

• West Sutherland Deer Management Group. GR reported that he was to be put forward as the future Chairman of this group at their next meeting. The current Chairman wished to stand down. With the topic of the management of the red deer population in Scotland high on the Government’s agenda, it will be important that this group sends out a clear message of how it aims to achieve the objectives of its overall Plan.

• Funding under the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) – JV reported that the Foundation’s application under the Moorland Option for Open Range Deer Management had been successful. AF will receive a grant of approx £5000 a year. Thanks were expressed to BOH for all the work that he had put into this application.

• Skills Audit - NG will send round his paper ahead of the planned Board Away Day meeting on the 16th February 2017. Action NG

• Organogram – AP reported that he had sent a copy of this document to MH, and undertook to send to all other Board members. Action AP

• Drumrunie Track – GR, BOH, and JV had planned a meeting with SNH for Friday the 20th January. Unfortunately, this had just been postponed due to an injury to the path contractor who was also to attend the meeting. To be rearranged.

3. Financial

The forthcoming meeting with HIE on the 8th February will be the opportunity to spell out in detail the difficulties experienced in opening the B&B business during the winter months and to prepare a streamlined plan for its future management. The EO’s position will be confirmed for a second year but with the HIE contribution reduced to 65% of this year’s grant. Numerous options to ensure the long term future sustainability of the Foundation have been, and continue to be explored with the hydro schemes being the most obvious solution. The summer prospects for the B&B business in Glencanisp Lodge look good, with advance bookings coming in steadily. GR and JT will meet to discuss administration costs. Action GR/JT


4. Governance

NG advised the board he had recently met with a Mr Simon Jeffreys (SJ) who might potentially offer services in complimentary ways.  He is a retired lawyer with considerable experience of charities & company law including the roles of a Company Secretary and other business administration skills. He has been interested in the Foundation for a number of years and NG will continue discussions to find the best form of contribution. All agreed that SJ would bring very useful skills. Action NG

5. Executive officer Report

• Lodge Report – The winter months had been a struggle with poor visitor uptake in a building that is very expensive to heat. A full analysis of the Lodge administration, staffing and future operation is underway. No further new B&B bookings will be taken until the end of March. Existing bookings will be honoured and whole lodge lets will be considered.

• Hydro – Green Hydro Renewables are undertaking their second site appraisal on the 8th of Feb. In addition to the 2 MW scheme, four other potential schemes are being evaluated with individual Feasibility Study Grants available from Local Energy Scotland for each one.

6. Friends of Assynt Foundation

This will be discussed at the Board Away Day in detail and will lead to the production of a final document that sends out the desired message and promotes the Foundation widely. JM also recommended the production of a simple questionnaire to be presented to B&B guests offering opportunities to revisit, and also explaining the role of the Foundation. This could well encourage them to become Members. Action JM


7. Croft Creation

NG had circulated a document highlighting a number of important procedural issues that required resolution prior to the next stage in the process of croft creations. There are many challenges and potential financial implications for the Foundation. There is a need to clarify the legal rights of a community landowner to actually create crofts, and AF needs to receive clearance from the Charities Commission. The costs are a major concern. As an example the bridge at Ledbeg is in poor condition with doubts as to the repairing obligations and who will be responsible in the future for these costs. The PR issues are really important and the Board need to clarify matters at the away day so that there is no confusion.

It was agreed that the board needs to swiftly come together, reach agreement and then put the final proposals to the members for approval. SH stressed the importance of this matter and the need to be absolutely clear on the detail. He also expressed his view that existing grazing tenants should be properly looked after during the process.

The financial implications are evident. Entrance fees for new crofters will be significant and this needs to be clearly explained. Numerous applicants have applied from outwith the local area and the Board needs to be absolutely clear as to its selection criteria in order to be fair to all those who have made the effort to register their interest. HS expressed her concerns that the Board was under considerable pressure and that there should be no question of being pushed into a corner. We all need to be sure that we are ready to commit to the project before a final decision is reached. SH said if the Board ultimately decided that it was not in a position to proceed, then a very clear statement needs to be issued explaining that, following detailed appraisal, the financial position of the Board meant that it could not move forward immediately, but that the topic of croft creation will be taken forward when funds permit. NG asked GR to identify the full financial and opportunity costs prior to the away day meeting of the Board. Action GR SH asked if the maps showing potential croft areas could be circulated. Action AP

8. Board Away Day

The away day will be held in the Lodge Thursday 16th February. NG highlighted that this was a very important opportunity to spend time developing ideas and clarifying the way forward. The afternoon session will focus on Croft creation. Governance will be an important topic – identifying the best ways of conducting our business more efficiently. The Board will be able to really look at the use of the Lodge and its administration. Directors will have the opportunity to spend time inspecting every room in the Lodge. The Business Plan will also be revisited and focus will be put on those items that should receive the highest priority in order to be clear of the direction of travel. If the weather permits, it is intended that Board members spend some time walking around the grounds to help clarify how future developments can be assimilated into a master lay-out plan. NG will produce an agenda and circulate it before the day. Action NG.


9. AOB- None

10. Date of next Meeting

Thursday 16th February- Glencanisp Lodge


Categories: AF Minutes