Advice and Support

Communities and ownership

Find out how communities can help to care for our heritage

A community group working on a project together hold up a long fold-out book.

1 Overview

Communities are often the best people to care for and celebrate their local built heritage. They bring their passion and local understanding to all types of heritage assets like old school buildings, former factories, ruined churches and local memorials.

Adopt a Monument programme is a long-established programme to help you take on ownership and care of local monuments.

If you are looking to bring a local historic building back to life, you may find it on the Buildings at Risk Register. The Scottish Land Commission provide useful advice on transforming vacant and derelict land on the national register.

Community bodies have specific rights when it comes to taking control of land and buildings. The Community Empowerment Act established these in 2015. They are set out more clearly in the Scottish Government's summary of the Act and by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Scottish Community Development Centre and the Community Ownership Support Service both have helpful information on community right to buy and asset transfer. We recommend that you identify a sustainable long-term use for any historic asset you plan to take into community management or ownership.

Our selection of case studies is a good place to find examples of successful transfers of historic assets to community bodies and ways we have helped.

2 Case study: White House, Craigmillar, Edinburgh

For more than five years in the early 2000s, the White House in Craigmillar lay empty. It became a target for anti-social behaviour, and was vandalised and even set fire to a number of times.

The situation was only going to get worse, both for the building and for the community around it. But it was the affection the community still had for this important part of Craigmillar's local heritage that saved it from being lost entirely.

A grander past

The White House had always been a popular building in Craigmillar - not least because when it was first build, it was one of very few pubs in the area. It was one of Edinburgh's original roadhouses - a sort of cross between a pub and a hotel - built in the 1930s.

It was also a very distinctive building. There isn't much Art Deco architecture in Edinburgh, and its white external walls and almost ship-like design really make it stand out from the crowd. It is listed at category B to recognise its architectural and historic interest.

PARC, a publicly-owned development company, bought the building in 2007. They got funding from the Scottish Government and Historic Scotland to restore it to its former glory.

But it was the local community who gave the building a long-term future. They set up a community development trust, and agreed a lease for the building. Using the White House as a base, the trust started social enterprise operations to benefit the community.

A happy future

The community runs retail, gardening, and catering enterprises. The popular White House Kitchen offers a healthy, affordable food, using local produce and even their own homegrown vegetables and herbs. The building hosts local festivals and music events. It is a centre point for the community.

The White House has changed from a source of anti-social behaviour, into one of the key community hubs for Craigmillar. This would never have happened without the energy and work the community has invested. This, along with external funding, has saved an iconic focal point and put it to good and sustainable use.

You can read more about the Art Deco heritage of Craigmillar, and the works to save it, on our blog.

Read our blog