Mid Deeside Limited lays out its plans for the future

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The 16th annual general meeting of Mid Deeside Limited (MDL) will be held at 7.30pm on Tuesday, August 23, at The Huntly Arms Hotel, Aboyne, giving the community an opportunity to hear about the work of their company and plans for the future.

MDL recently secured a grant of £87,000 from Aberdeenshire LEADER towards a project to enable businesses in the centre of Aboyne to make improvements to the frontages of their premises.

Peter Argyle, MDL chairman, told the Deeside Piper: “News of the grant has focused local attention on the question of how Aboyne can best promote itself as a community and as a place for visitors, how the village can be improved for the benefit of everyone.

“These themes are also strongly expressed in the excellent Community Action Plan recently published by Mid Deeside Community Council. We now have a real opportunity to take these ideas forward.

“With the MDL AGM falling soon, it is opportune to say something about where MDL came from and how we see the future of the company within the community.”

MDL is a registered Scottish charity and a company limited by guarantee. It was established in 1996 as a community economic development organisation with a remit to promote sustainable development through project work. It has a board of directors drawn from the community and operates from an office in the Victory Hall.

MDL is delivering two longer-term projects - community transport and community woods as well as some shorter term work in other fields.

MDL operates the Deeside Hopper, the only community-run, scheduled bus service in Scotland. The project was launched in 1999 to improve transport links between local communities. The Hopper also provides a ‘town service’ in Aboyne.

Passenger numbers have grown steadily since the launch, to around 5,000 annually. Since 2002, MDL has worked in partnership with local company Allan & Black to provide the service.

The Village Hopper is fully accessible and is open to everyone to use. The project has also been sponsored by the Scottish Co-op since 1999, with the main funding coming from the Scottish Rural Transport Initiative and fare income.

MDL also operates two community minibuses, available for hire by non-profit groups and organisations. The project is supported by the volunteer Deeside Community Transport Group.

Transport Co-ordinator Donna Speed said: “We are currently fundraising for a new community bus and have been delighted by the response to the appeal by grant-giving bodies and by groups within the community. We have raised some £44,600 towards our target total of £55,000 in less than a year.

“If we can bridge this final gap, we will be able to provide a modern, fully accessible minibus for community groups. The buses are very well used and provide affordable transport for local organisations.”

MDL has been involved in community woods since 2002, when the opportunity arose for community purchase of the 300 acre Bell Wood. With the support of the Scottish Land Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and other funders, the purchase was completed in May 2004.

In addition, MDL secured a 99-year lease on the Lady Wood, at the western end of the village in 2003, with woodland management and path creation following.

The Forestry Commission recently approved the forest plan for the Bell Wood and Lady Wood, drawn up on behalf of MDL by the Ross Partnership following consultation with the community.

The woodland plan sets out how the woods will be managed for the next 20 years.

MDL Director Eileen Baird said: “We have been working since 2004 to deliver the original aims of the project, to improve access to the woodlands, to make a more natural habitat and to establish the woodlands as part of the community.

“These aims were developed with the community and are as valid now as they were almost ten years ago. To make the Bell Wood into a place that can be enjoyed by everyone is at the heart of the project, in particular those for whom access to woodland is difficult.”

Active Aboyne, the outdoor events festival, is now in its eighth year. The theme for 2011 is the International Year of the Forest.

Over the years, the project has brought inspirational speakers including Jamie Andrew and Simon Yates, to Aboyne as well as introducing family-friendly activities to a new audience.

MDL’s Company Secretary Eilidh Scobbie has led the development of Active Aboyne over the past three years.

She said: “We are delighted Jimmie MacGregor will be launching this year’s Active Aboyne, with a talk on the life of the naturalist, John Muir. We have a good programme of events and activities on offer for 2011, from big hill days to fly-fishing, wake boarding and pony trekking.

“Active Aboyne is designed to encourage everyone to explore and enjoy the wonderful natural environment of Deeside and is open to residents and visitors alike.”

MDL has been working with Scottish Enterprise, Visit Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council to develop the Aboyne Centre Enhancement Scheme (ACES).

Peter Argyle said: “It is well recognised that many visitors to the area simply pass through Aboyne on their way to other destinations. By working together to promote Aboyne as a place to visit, raising awareness of the excellent range of businesses here, we can deliver a more economically sustainable community.

“In these challenging economic times it is important not to compete with other communities but to work with them to bring more visitors to Deeside and to improve visitor experience.”

All of these projects will be discussed at the AGM, with particular focus on how Aboyne can promote itself over the next three years. A number of interesting potential projects are under consideration for the coming months. There is also hope that the popular local newsletter ‘The Osprey’ could be revived.

Guest speaker at the meeting will be John Carnie, Tourism Development Manager for the Royal Deeside & Cairngorms Destination Management Organisation.