Article in The Courier on 29th September 2021 by Cara Forrester
Brechin campaigners are facing an anxious wait to find out if their plans for a community health and wellbeing hub will finally be given the green light.
Brechin Healthcare group (BHG) is waiting for the result of their appeal to the Scottish Government to take over the former Infirmary site under Community Asset Transfer (CAT).
But they’ve been left in limbo after delays pushed the process back another month.
BHG formed in 2015, following a reduction in local healthcare provision.
Currently, the group are set up in the Jenner Centre in the town’s former Santander Bank branch.
The space is used by groups and organisations to run drop-ins and sessions supporting vulnerable individuals across all age groups.
This month alone, three new services were announced; Self-Directed Support for Dundee and Angus, Hear Me Counselling and Alternatives.
And the group have set their sights on the old Infirmary building to house the growing number of services offered to more of the community.
They applied to NHS Tayside to take over the building after years of work behind the scenes.
But it was refused earlier this year because the health authority had concerns about the deliverability and sustainability of the project.
The group then had to appeal the decision with the Scottish Government, but administration issues have caused further delays.
The campaigners are concerned this will have an impact on their ability to apply for vital funding.
They also have concerns about the fabric of the building – the more time that passes until a decision is reached.
Grahame Lockhart, Chairman, Brechin Healthcare Group, explains the appeal was submitted on July 27.
“Administration issues with the Scottish Government and questions around additional information has put the whole process back by over a month.”
‘Two more months have passed’
The group submitted additional information in response to documentation from NHS Tayside last week.
Grahame says: “It means two months have passed since our appeal submission.
“The Reporter has now been appointed and we acknowledge that due diligence is vital in reaching the correct decision.
“However, we are very concerned that delay in the appeal process will impact on our funding applications and the ongoing deterioration of the buildings.
“We are now moving towards the end of September and regularly we are being asked by folk in the community and users of the Jenner Centre on the progress of our appeal.
“Sadly, we have to tell them that we’re not certain if the process has actually begun.
“Yes, patience is required, but unnecessary delays are unacceptable.”
‘Move services closer to people’
Michael Marra MSP supports the group and their “vital work.”
He says: “The need for accessible local services has never been more apparent than in the past 18 months during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“For people in crisis to be left with no option but to travel for hours, possibly taking two or three buses, to get the care they need is unsustainable.
“And if we truly hope to get on top of the drug and mental health crises in Scotland, we must move services closer to the people who use them.”
What is community asset transfer?
Under the Community Empowerment Act community bodies can make requests to all local authorities, Scottish Ministers and a range of public bodies for any land or buildings they feel they could make better use of.
They can request ownership, lease or other rights as they wish.