A filling station owned by the rural community of Applecross is leading the way in operating a successful social enterprise.
The Wester Ross community is about to undergo a refurbishment of its petrol pumps in a bid to ensure the service's future. The project highlights a first class example of how Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is working with social enterprises through their account management approach.
Previously, the owner of the local shop decided to give up running the petrol pumps and with the nearest filling station being a 36 mile round trip to Lochcarron, it was a major loss for the people living on the peninsula. Following extensive consultation within the community, the petrol station was taken over by the Applecross Community Company in September 2008.
The company was successful earlier this year in securing funding of £20,000 through the Big Lottery's Growing Community Assets fund for the project which will ultimately result in increased fuel sales and reduce operating costs.
In developing their plans, the community was assisted by the recently introduced “account management” approach by the enterprise agency, designed to ensure that community groups can fully access the expertise and contacts of HIE area offices. HIE is continuing to identify a pipeline of businesses and social enterprises with the ability to rapidly grow the economy of the Highlands and Islands.
New pumps will be installed with an electrical system and an electronic point of sale card reader which will allow the pumps to remain open all day. The station is an essential part of this rurally isolated community and improving the facilities will allow it to remain open, directly benefiting the population of around 200 people as well as local organisations and businesses in the community of Applecross. The project will also benefit approximately 85,000 visitors each year.
Chair of the community company, Alison Macleod was determined not to lose a facility that both villagers and visitors regard as vital. Alison said: “We are delighted to be working with HIE on our growth plan which has helped us secure funding for the petrol pump project. The Community Land Unit at HIE were great when we started up and they helped us with our BIG Lottery Fund application. Any money we make from the filling station will be ploughed back into the community.”
Lindsay Campbell is HIE's account manager for the Applecross Community Company. She said: “We have been working on a programme of support to help the Applecross community achieve its aspirations for growth and we congratulate them in what they have successfully achieved – managing the assets to provide a great service for Applecross.
“Helping communities to provide services and develop infrastructure for themselves is a major part of what we do at HIE and supporting community development is also something for which HIE has gained nationwide recognition.”
HIE's Community Land Unit, which for the last 12 years has supported community groups achieve ownership and management of their own land and assets, has a national contract with its partners to co-ordinate, support and distribute the community assets fund for the Big Lottery. The Growing Community Assets fund is currently delivered through HIE's Strengthening Communities team and will come to an end in March this year.