Construction skills charity completes purchases from East Lothian Council

A construction skills training charity has completed the purchase of Black Bull Close and Backlands Garden from East Lothian Council.

The Ridge provides skill training for trainees, with a particular focus on traditional stonemasonry and joinery.

Eight modern apprentices benefiting from the scheme have been working to restore the historic boundary walls at the close, as well as the ruined Black Bull Close buildings.

The organisation has leased land buildings at Black Bull Close from the local authority since 2015 for its activities, however will now take ownership of the facilities in what is the constituency’s first community asset transfer.

During its time leasing, The Ridge has regenerated a neglected waste ground to create the ‘stunning’ Backlands Garden and the clearance and restoration of the Black Bull Close buildings.

The works were supported by a range of funders, including The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Foundation Scotland, the local Area Partnership and Community Council, East Lothian Council and more.

Following on from two ‘extensive’ community consultations, the charity’s plans for the site include enhancing the landscape, improving biodiversity and public access to the garden, developing a ‘much needed’ support centre for local people, offices for core staff, a dance studio, workshops, artist studio space, and a training kitchen offering education and training opportunities.

East Lothian Council said that ownership of the site will strengthen The Ridge’s case to attract external funding. The local authority received £25,000 from the sale, which the organisation secured through grant funding from the Scottish Land Fund.

Depute East Lothian Council leader, Norman Hampshire, said, “This is great news for The Ridge, the people it works with, Dunbar town centre and the council. The Ridge do fantastic work to support people in getting into or return to the workplace. This could be by getting an apprenticeship or by just building confidence and stability to sustain an employment opportunity. The Community Empowerment Act gives groups greater opportunity to take on suitable assets where they have a strong reason to do so and it will develop the services they provide.

“It supports our desire to create pathways into apprenticeships and jobs and support businesses in securing qualified people. I’m delighted that the Community Asset Transfer has been approved and look forward to seeing The Ridge’s projects go from strength-to-strength.”

Kate Darrah, MD of The Ridge, added, “When we embarked on this process, we had a vision of a place that would become a valuable asset for all of our community and a place from which to deliver The Ridge’s core aims and services. Taking ownership of the site allows us to secure access to those opportunities for our community into the future.”