Tom Sneddon, Chair of Carluke Development Trust, is very straight forward when describing the old South Lanarkshire mining town which, in more recent times, has become a commuter base for people working in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“To look at, Carluke is quite an ordinary town” he says. “It’s not a ‘picture postcard’ place. We don’t have cobbled lanes and lots of buildings of architectural merit.”
In fact, Carluke has only two listed properties near its High Street area, one of them a very dilapidated ‘A’ grade windmill dating from 1797. And it’s “High Mill” (as it’s known) that is the focus of the most ambitious project that the Trust has taken on since setting up in 1999.
Believed to be the most complete windmill in Scotland, and also important in a UK context, the grain mill was converted from wind power to steam power in the 1830s and then gas in the early 1900s but hasn’t been in use since just before WW2.
Now Carluke Development Trust has got plans to bring the mill back to life as a social enterprise, centred on the themes of local food, heritage and sustainability.
Says Tom Sneddon: “Ideally, we’d like to buy the land and get the mill working again, using the flour it produces to make artisan bread.”
“There could be a cook school, cafe and kitchen garden; and the mill could be used for school visits and other educational purposes. People could even get married in it!”
An Options Appraisal was carried out in 2013 and plans have been drawn up for a development at High Mill that would cost around £2.4 million.
“We’re in discussions with the owner” says Tom “and we would probably be approaching the Big Lottery for funding.”
The Trust recently appointed a full-time Development Manager, Kathleen Feeney, thanks to a “Strengthening Communities” grant which will pay her salary for two years.
Tom believes that should be enough time to make substantial progress with their main projects.
He says: “Eight or nine years ago, we got a grant for a development worker for 12 months but that wasn’t long enough, and then those grants ran out.”
And on the subject of grants, Tom feels that those ‘picture postcard’ towns he mentioned have an unfair advantage over ‘ordinary’ places like Carluke.
“Pretty places can get substantial amounts of money to make them look even prettier” he says “but we aren’t eligible for that kind of funding.