What happened at the first Community Assembly?

We were bowled over by the excellent response to your first ever online Community Assembly last Thursday evening! 
68 local folk reserved a virtual seat, and 61 turned up (not including the six of us in the facilitation team).  A great start was made to translating the challenges and aspirations from the community survey results into practical solutions for the Community Action Plan.  

It’s a sign of the times that it wasn’t the weather that folk had to brave to attend the event, but technical issues.  A big thank you to everyone for their perseverance in logging on.  For the handful of folk who didn’t make it for tech or other reasons: you haven’t missed out on any decision-making and can still contribute to the process, as we’ll explain below. 

This post will outline what was discussed at the Assembly, before going on to explain what will be happening over the next six weeks so that everyone can continue to shape the plan in whatever way they feel comfortable.


Smaller groups began to explore how to realise the aspirations expressed in the community survey, working on five themes emerging from the community survey.  Each group had access to useful background information covering suggestions from the community survey results, ideas already lodged in the Ideas Bank, and projects already in progress. 

Here are the main discussion points from the five themes, together with links to that background information.  


Click here to see the background information that helped to inform the group discussions.  The main points of the group discussions are noted below, in no particular order:  

Roads and signage:
  • Need to improve the roads for the summer tourist season and winter months.
Buy the shop and Post Office:
  • This could be a venue for local crafts, groceries and has accommodation
Affordable housing:
  • Develop housing for local people so that they don't have to move away. 
  • There are no houses available, can't buy a plot of land.
Affordable heating programme:
  • Develop a project to support all residents to heat their homes.
Woodland play park:
  • Develop a big play park for local people and a destination for tourism.
Have one school for local children:
  • Bring the community together with one school
Simplify grants for small community projects:
  • Enable people to do small projects (eg flower boxes, events) with easy-access small grants - aggregated up these could make a big difference
Sports facilities:
  • Pitch in Foyers or Gorthleck - play parks in Gorthleck and other communities - work with Fort Augustus on a swimming pool (needs to be viable).
  • Much needed facilities especially for younger folk and primary schools. Encourage sport, health, wellbeing.  Featured strongly in community survey.
  • Need to be safe to get to on foot or by bike.
Public toilets in Foyers
Community gardening

Is anything missing from this summary?  Please add it to this interactive Padlet board so everyone can see.


Click here to see the background information that helped to inform the group discussions.

The first group session on Better Connections focused on what the aspirations for this theme people have. Broadly, there was a consensus on the following:

  • Good quality broadband and mobile phone signal coverage across the whole community.
  • Improving the condition of the road network as well as the experience of travelling through the community.
  • Providing transport alternatives within the community (and to Inverness/Fort Augustus) for those who can't drive.

Discussion in the first and then the second session turned to ideas of how to get there. You can see all of these (and summaries of everyone's comments) on the Padlet board, but the three big ideas that the community can lead on were:

  • Work out a package of measures that can deliver
    good quality broadband for all (there isn't a one-size fits all solution). As different types of connection have different costs, providing free internet connections to all homes in the community could be offered.
  • There is a big untapped potential for a community path network. Some of this can be improved with signposting, others with investment on the ground. A balance will need to be struck so that there is sustainable long term maintenance, and that the peaceful nature of the community (that makes it special) is maintained.
  • Some sort of community minibus transport provision is required, this could be used to provide home delivery of orders from the shop in Foyers.

If anything is missing from the fuller summary on the interactive Padlet board, please add it there so everyone can see.


Click here to see the background information that helped to inform the group discussions.  The main points of the group discussions are noted below, in no particular order: 

Repairs at Boleskine Graveyard:
  • The council apparently owns it but maintenance could be better - e.g. the mort house and the main gates which are taken off their hinges every time the council team comes to mow the grass.
Community Ranger:
  • Mentioned throughout discussion.
  • Idea of having "boots on the ground", able to enact ideas.
  • Education
  • Preservation
Minimising impact of tourism
  • Litter from campsite
  • Noise
  • Footpath erosion
  • Proposed solutions: more bins (effectiveness?), community ranger, nature education

Get the Pavilion back from Newtonmore Folk Museum?
Walking routes:
  • Well maintained
  • Accessible 
  • Accurate maps of routes
  • Better signage
  • Interactive maps or signage
  • Impact monitoring
Shinty pitches
The Wade bridge at Inverfarigaig belongs to Forest and Land Scotland and urgently needs saving.
Community owned woodland – could be used for:
  • Footpaths
  • Education
  • "Woodland culture"
  • Firewood
  • Protect native species
  • Remove invasive species (eg Japanese knotweed, rhododendrons)
  • Infrastructure to enjoy nature (birdwatching hide)

Cultural & architectural heritage:
  • Fix Foyers Bridge
  • Bombshelters
  • Doocot
Community purchase of campsite:
  • "If we have to put up with the noise we might as well get something out of it"
Nature education
  • For both visitors and locals
  • Might help with impact of tourism.
  • Potentially facilitated by Community Ranger?

Is anything missing from this summary?  Please add it to the interactive Padlet board so everyone can see.


Click here to see the background information that helped to inform the group discussions.  The main points of the group discussions are noted below, in no particular order: 

Upgrade or replace poor quality homes:
  • Upgrade or rebuild homes that are cold, damp, poorly insulated, expensive to heat - need to be more eco-friendly, more comfortable and cheaper to run
More affordable rented housing for local folk of all ages:
  • For young families, retiring estate workers, anybody local in need.  Retain as a community asset to be rented to others rather than sell off. 
  • Build new high quality stock, zero carbon. 
  • Different types of homes for different folk, young and old.
Sensitive community-led housing delivery:
  • Deliver those affordable rented homes for local folk in a sensitive, collaborative, community-led way.
  • Use housing land at Inverfarigaig and Gorthleck, involving a community organisation to do it appropriately.
  • eg Fort Augustus or Ardgeal at Kincraig 
Where should new affordable rented homes for local folk go?
  • How do we get round resistance in Inverfarigaig where there is a gap site that could be developed for much needed local homes?
  • Should houses be developed as individual isolated units like crofts were?
  • Or small community schemes like the Ardgeal example?
Local community led renewable electricity:
  • Small scale community owned power generation and storage - eg hydro, wind, solar, battery storage - cheaper and environmentally friendly - part of drive for a zero carbon community

Is anything missing from this summary?  Please add it to the interactive Padlet board so everyone can see.


Click here to see the background information that helped to inform the group discussions. The main points of the group discussions are noted below, in no particular order: 

There's mistrust of the Trust, but it's in a difficult position:
  • Professionalise the Trust with paid positions to help ensure project delivery.
  • Consistent communications and to take pressure off volunteers who only have so much time to assist. 
  • Trust has grown so big it has to become more 'formal' and business like.
  • Use of technology and 'Covid lessons' to utilise technology to encourage participation between residents and Trust at meetings, more two way communication and discussion to improve levels of trust.
  • Make sure everyone feels respected and understood.
Local directory / skills bank:
  • containing information about what different people and organisations in the community have to offer
Learn from other communities..
  • ... in the highlands and islands about how they organise themselves
Central meeting place
  • …where folk can meet and get on
Community Action Plan should be for the whole community, not for the Trust

Is anything missing from this summary?  Please add it to the interactive Padlet board so everyone can see.


What area did the community survey cover?  
  • It was the same area as the Stratherrick and Foyers Community Council / Community Trust boundaries.

Can the community survey results be published in full?
  • Having investigated this carefully, we are unfortunately unable to publish the results in full because of the risk of breaching GDPR by revealing individual people's identity.  However carefully we redact information, we as outsiders may inadvertently reveal people's identities by not redacting enough information.  This is particularly an issue because of the small size of the communities in the area.  Our apologies.


Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nor did we expect to agree any actions at the Assembly.  In fact, we didn’t want to. It will take weeks of careful thought and discussion, with the involvement of more people, to agree actions and priorities.  We don't want anyone to feel that they're being ignored or are missing opportunities to contribute.  The Community Action Plan must belong to the community rather than the Trust.

As a reminder of the overall process to prepare the Community Action Plan, we’re now in the middle stage in diagram below, which comprises Assembly sessions and working groups:

preparing the Community Action Plan

We are not tied to those timescales. The challenges of lockdown and online discussion make it important that we give enough time for open discussion involving everyone who wants to be involved - doing it well is more importantly than doing it quickly, even if that means waiting for lockdown to ease.  So we’ll focus on four things over the next six weeks.


Contributing to the Ideas Bank by the end of April will help inform the working group discussions in early-mid May. But you will still be able to submit ideas at least up to the Community Assembly on 27 May.

You can use the Ideas Bank to:

  • See what ideas people have shared already.
  • Give a thumbs-up to ideas you think would be good for the community.
  • Add new ones that are missing. 


These smaller online workshops will kick off in May, initially with an evening for each of the five Ideas Bank themes.
Each workshop will focus on identifying the practical ideas from the Ideas Bank, large and small, that will have the biggest positive impact on the local community - towards your shared aspirations of protecting the rural environment and having a sustainable community with jobs, services, homes, a diverse population and more things for kids.  

Better Connections - Tuesday 4 May 7:30pm
Community Life - Tuesday 11 May 7:30pm
Organising Ourselves - Thursday 13 May 7:30pm
Outdoors and Nature - Tuesday 18 May 7:30pm
Our Homes - Thursday 20 May 7:30pm

We’re aiming to keep the workshops to between 10-20 people so we can get into the nitty-gritty of solutions.  We may record the workshops and share the recordings so that everyone can see what was discussed .

Interested?  Click or tap on the relevant working group title above, then let us know using the “Join working group” button.

Thursday 27th May 7:30pm is the day for your diary!

This is the occasion when the working groups will report back, and everybody will get the chance to decide whether the aspirations and practical solutions are heading in the right direction - complemented by a website update.

We anticipate that the working groups will then meet again after the second Assembly to flesh out the actions in more detail. And, if we need to, we’ll organise a third Community Assembly before we get to the actual Community Action Plan.


Don’t forget you can contact me, Nick Wright, as the lead facilitator for the independent Community Action Planning team.  Please feel free to pick up the phone or email me if you have any questions or suggestions.  My details are at the bottom of each page of the website.  

I’d love to hear from you, and anything you say will be in confidence unless you say otherwise. 

We’ll also be working to get ready for real, in-person, face-to-face engagement as soon as it’s safe to do so - including with young people. There’s no substitute for having a chat over a cuppa for something as fascinating as the future of the community!

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