BACK in November 2022, I wrote about an experience I once had at a conference, where a fellow delegate told of her journey from running a parent and toddler group in her local community centre to becoming the CEO of a national children’s charity. Central to her story was the singular point in history where she was given the keys to the community centre, and thereafter the freedom to grow the group on its own terms.

I noted at the time that it was all quite inspirational, and such a clear message – just “give people the keys” and look what can happen!

The coda to the conference retelling, however, was the beleaguered public sector worker who brought us all back down to earth with a bump when she added: “I love what you’ve just said, but I would get fired if I gave you the keys today”.

And so, to Saturday morning, when I had the unfettered joy in officially declaring open the Caddlehill Community Garden. This is a space that belongs to the council, but having been vacated by previous users, was lying untended and unused for some time.

The good people of Caddlehill Street and its environs had a vision to take something unused and transform it into a space, a destination, an asset for the community. Having set up a group which put some governance around their plans, they were able to use Scottish Government Legislation – the Community Empowerment Act – to start discussions with the Council about a Community Asset Transfer.

If the council did not have a specific use or plan for the land, and it was left unused, then surely the vision, care, and attention of community members, to make the space useful and productive would be a better option? Through the hard work and perseverance of all, this was indeed the decision that all parties were able to make together, and agreement was reached to transfer the asset to the community group.

We gave the group the keys.

Asset transfers take time, effort and resource, and the process requires work and commitment. But there are spaces and buildings in Inverclyde which currently exist without purpose, and I hope that more residents and groups will look with visionary eyes on these potential assets that sit within all of our neighbourhoods. A space or building being looked after and cared for has to be better than the alternative – right?

It was lovely that the opening of the Caddlehill Community Garden was taking place on our Doors Open weekend. We have so many interesting buildings and public spaces, and Inverclyde’s story is rich and full. As locals, we maybe take it for granted, or don’t know enough about what’s on our doorstep. It would be so lovely, and probably quite good for us, if we all could take the time to find the hidden gems of Inverclyde that are near us – like the gardens.

We are also opening our community to the rest of the world and there is much for visitors to admire. Grateful thanks must go to the dedicated volunteers who welcome visitors to our area and who, increasingly over the years, have presented to them the many reasons to hang around these parts when they arrive!

I know that the Caddlehill residents are proud of the little haven they have created that can be added to Inverclyde’s offer – and which can be appreciated by local and traveller alike.

If “giving people the keys” is a risk, I would like to think that the more we do it, the more we learn about how to do it well, safely, and successfully. When we look across Inverclyde at improvements made, and those we would still like to see realised – I think we need to boldly keep on taking some risks together.