Linwood Community Development Trust

The following response was posted as a comment on my previous blog “Linwood no more. From the Hillman Imp to Tescotown“. I consider that the content merits a Guest Blog rather than a comment and am delighted to host this response from Linwood Community Development Trust. I should add for clarity that, apart from having met Jeannette Anderson (the Chair of LCDT) and other members of the Trust briefly at an Oxfam Wave of Change meeting, I wrote my “Linwood no more” blog without having spoken to the organisation.

GUEST BLOG by Kirsty Flannigan, Linwood Community Development Trust

I write on behalf of Linwood CDT to thank you for writing this article.  It clearly defines the history of Tesco in Linwood and also demonstrates that past regeneration projects – that have focussed on physical assets – have failed Linwood in the longer term.

For Linwood Community Development Trust, the past 4 years have been like rolling jelly up a hill.  We have campaigned on behalf of our community to ensure our voices were heard during major regeneration programmes such as a £24m Sports Facility and the Tesco development.  The purpose was for Linwood to receive a proportion of ‘our regeneration’ funding or to have a voice during the process to ensure much needed community facilities were built that met the needs of the Linwood community.  We did not want the failures of the past, such as the car factory and the shopping centre to be repeated.

However, we were ignored, disempowered and on many occasions made to feel inferior by those in power.  Our past council leader stated that our campaigns were “merely an aspiration of need“, and also accused Oxfam (one of our partners), as being “a voicebox for those who are clearly incapable of speaking for themselves.”  It is ironic that this individual is now the Minister for Local Government and Planning and is leading on the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

Alex Neil, the then Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment said, at the launch of the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Strategy in December 2011 that

“..there has been a habit in the past for governments to appoint suits to go into areas of deprivation and for the suits to tell the local people what they need to do to regenerate their area. They then get consultants in to do it and then after a while, leave again, very often having not made much difference to the area.

“The first lesson is the community itself has to drive the regeneration. It needs help, it needs outside expertise, it needs financial resource but at the end of the day, no regeneration strategy that is not driven by the local community will succeed and the history of the last 40 or 50 years demonstrates that.

Secondly, regeneration has to be about long term sustainability, not just environmentally but economically. It is very clear that those regeneration strategies which have focused only on the physical regeneration of an area, basically fail.”

Our campaigns were to ask the ‘suits’ to focus on the ‘human assets’ not the ‘physical assets’ during OUR regeneration programmes but we were seen as the ‘usual suspects’.  We saw the ‘suits’ as ‘cosmic bureaucrats’ living on another planet.  It was a case of them doing it ‘to us’, instead of ‘with us’.

Linwood CDT has recognised that ‘abuse of power’ and ‘power over’ communities does not only happen at council or government level, it happens within our own communities.  Our experience demonstrated that those who had held power within Linwood for a number of years were threatened that they would lose their status when Linwood CDT was formed. Some did their best to discredit the work of the Trust.  However, they should have been be better equipped to use their power more effectively in order to work together to empower and enable the changes Linwood needed, rather than being directed by the interests of those who were already in a position of power.

Linwood CDT has not let any of this put us off.  We have persevered. As Longfellow observed, “perseverance is a great element of success.  If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you will be sure to wake up somebody”.

Our perseverence has now paid off.  With a new administration a new council leader, and a very supportive local councillor we are now in the process of obtaining an asset transfer of land in order to build much needed community facilities, that will focus on building a stronger, more resilient Linwood.  However, we would not have been able to have achieved this without the support of our community, Oxfam Scotland, Foundation Scotland and Development Trusts Association Scotland.  Thank you all!

Our journey continues and we believe there is a wave of change happening in Linwood.  We would urge communities who are facing the same hardships as Linwood to never, ever give up if you believe something is worth fighting for.  After all, this is our community, our future, and who best knows what the community needs, than the community itself?

Linwood Community Action Plan (4.2Mb pdf)