Am Bratach No. 306
After a £250,000 extension and renovation project, the Kyle Centre in Tongue is due to re-open this month. North Coast Connection, which runs the centre as a community wellbeing hub, is delighted that the community will be able to use the building again.
The council-run day care service in the Kyle Centre finally closed in spring 2012. In the lead up to this, a community-based working group formed which evolved to become North Coast Connection. They looked at community concerns about the wellbeing of the former day care service users and the uncertainties over the future use of the building. North Coast Connection reached an agreement with Highland Council (later with NHS Highland) to provide a community lunch club with health-promoting activity three days a week. Three part-time staff a manager, a cook and a centre support worker along with volunteers provide a welcoming atmosphere, good food and a variety of activities for those who come along. A contract with the local community transport organisation, Transport for Tongue Limited, ensures free accessible transport for those coming to the lunch club.
The vision for a community wellbeing hub was developed using grant funding from organisations such as the Volunteer Action Fund and the Robertson Trust to run a number of projects. Support and training for volunteers and staff members have enabled them to learn new skills. The community enjoyed activities such as MoT health checks, a youth café, Otago exercises, some creative workshops and evening talks. Hiring out the centre to local groups also increased the range of activities available.
Land adjacent to the building is leased for a community garden area with raised beds and a polytunnel, the produce grown being used at the lunches. North Coast Connection own the building following an asset transfer from Highland Council.
North Coast Connections community lunch club proved very popular. Chairperson and local GP Dr Marion Macdougall stated: Although we were delighted with the asset transfer and the popularity of our lunch club we quickly identified some limitations with our building. We very soon reached capacity and access to the building and to the facilities within the building was challenging for those with any disability. We also realised that the tiny domestic-standard kitchen would very soon fail to meet health and safety requirements.
The board looked into the possibilities for upgrading and extending the building and decided to go ahead. The Big Lottery, Climate Challenge Fund and the Caithness and North Sutherland Fund were the main funders for this ambitious project with smaller grants from organisations such as Age Scotland, Highland Council and the Edinburgh Sutherland Association.
A spokesperson for the Big Lottery Fund said: The Big Lottery Fund is one of the organisations that award cash to National Lottery Good Causes and we were very happy to support North Coast Connection who received an award for the refurbishment and extension of the Kyle Centre, which will help North Coast Connection to deliver a wider range of activities to more people from the community.
Funding from the Climate Challenge Fund enabled very high levels of insulation to be included in the building reducing its carbon footprint and running costs. North Coast Connection treasurer Liz Goudie said: We have doubled the floor area of the building and are expecting the heating bills to stay about the same. The air source heat pump is much more efficient than the old storage heaters.
With the extension and refurbishment almost completed the charitys board are confident that the improvements will increase the attractiveness and flexibility of the Kyle Centre for the community. Dr Macdougall continued: The new building has level access and fully accessible facilities; it also takes advantage of the glorious views across the Kyle of Tongue we hope this will encourage engagement with the outdoor environment.
During the building phase the lunch club has continued at the Kyle of Tongue Hostel. Dr Macdougall expressed North Coast Connections appreciation: We are extremely grateful to the Kyle of Tongue Hostel for accommodating us while the Kyle Centre was being refurbished. However, we are looking forward to getting back in to our own building. Centre manager, Sarah Beveridge, is a qualified Otago and Postural Stability Instructor. Sarah has previously run chair-based and Otago exercises for falls prevention both as part of the lunch club and as an additional activity. This has been curtailed while the Kyle Centre was closed and we are very much looking forward to being able to organise these and similar activities again. Once the centre re-opens the board intends to apply for grant funding to run different activities.Mrs Goudie concluded: Building projects are not for the faint hearted, but we now have a fantastic resource for our community so it has definitely been worth the hard work.