Ground-breaking community-led development

National Context

Scotland is making bold strides towards Community Empowerment with the eponymous Bill setting out new powers and levers such as Community Asset Transfers and Rights to Buy. 

In advance of these coming into place Edinburgh community group Bridgend Inspiring Growth (BIG) pioneered the new thinking, to acquire, repair and develop a derelict farmhouse in the heart of the housing estates around Craigmillar Castle and its park, to the south of the city centre.

Bridgend Farmhouse - historic farmhouse on the outskirts of Edinburgh, restored. View of workshops and garden towards house

CLIENT / Bridgend Inspiring Growth

ARCHITECT / Malcolm Fraser Architects, delivered by Halliday Fraser Munro

COMPLETION / March 2018

AREAS / Old Farmhouse 170m2; New Workshops 85m2

Brief and Construction / Community Hub built and driven by the local community under Scotland’s new Asset Transfer powers. Growing, cooking and eating, with rentable rooms and workshops; repair and renewal of historic building plus newbuild workshops.

Bridgend Farmhouse, Edinburgh. Derelict two storey building prior to renovation
Aerial Diagram of Bridgend Farmhouse, Edinburgh. Workshops, gardens

Local Need, National Support

Bridgend Farmhouse is set in the middle of some of the 5% most deprived areas of Scotland: the estates of Craigmillar, Inch, Moredun and Gilmerton. These are areas of high unemployment, ill-health, poor school performance and lack of affordable facilities. The site was an old and derelict farmhouse, next to some allotments on the main old road south from the city.

The Group patiently brought funders and the City of Edinburgh Council behind them, with significant milestones being support from the Big Lottery and the Council passing the building to them for a nominal £1, in preference to commercial bids on the table.

In the bike workshop at Bridgend Farmhouse. Two staff work with bikes
Kitchen volunteers at Bridgend Farmhouse, Edinburgh. Standing in front of a stainless steel worktop.

Constitution and Brief

The Group was constituted as a SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation), a legal form unique to Scottish charities and able to enter into contracts, employ staff, incur debts and own property, with a vision to develop skills around growing, cooking and eating, outdoor activities in relation to the park and general community opportunity and development.

The rebuilt farmhouse has café, training kitchens and meeting rooms. Adjacent to it a new timber shed contains workshops, which encloses a working yard to the front and a kitchen garden behind.

Main Contractor / Cornhill Building Services; main contract c. £628,000 plus community self-build input.

MFA Team / Malcolm Fraser, Pete Virtue, Gillian Storrar

Halliday Fraser Munro / Malcolm Fraser, Max Davidson, Mike Mckenzie

Structural Engineer / Elliott&Co

Costs, PD / David Adamson Group

Services / Harley Haddow

Project Manager / Graham Harper

Bridgend Farmhouse, Edinburgh. Family fun day in the garden
Courtyard party.
Canopy in the garden for summer talks and events
Courtyard adapted to a summer conference and party venue.

Building Knowledge and Skills through Community Participation

During the restoration BIG volunteers cleared the derelict building of overgrown plants and rubbish, built a temporary hut for activities and repaired and rebuilt the boundary walls, learning traditional lime mortar and mason’s skills.

They then completed the building of the Workshops which are clad in larch which the community prepared and fitted themselves, following training in the spectacular art of flame-charring. They also painted the interior of the farmhouse and restored the garden after the contractors moved out, have built a timber stage for outdoor performances and are completing and planning further projects.

Charred larch cladding at Bridgend Community Farmhouse.
Charred larch cladding on the Workshop building - prepared and fitted by community volunteers.
Volunteers char the larch cladding at Bridgend Farmhouse, Edinburgh
Volunteers prepare charred larch for the Workshop building.

An Ongoing Success

The building opened with a big party in Spring 2018 and BIG now have two full-time employees and two part-time staff who are delivering a programme of kitchen and cafe training, pilates and singing classes, woodwork sessions, a bike repair service, up-cycling workshops, arts and crafts classes, heritage projects, volunteer drop-in days and family fun events. Local volunteers are helping to run the kitchen and cafe, to lead woodworking and arts and craft sessions and are taking an active part in the heritage project.

Public events include Open Doors days, Festival of Food days, Family Fun days and Ceilidhs and hires for private events. And BIG have converted from a SCIO to a Co-operative Community Benefit Society and successfully completed a crowdfunded share offer to fund resources as the Lottery grant ends, passing ownership of the site and project to shareholders in the local community. The project now attracts an average of 600 people a month.

View from above, looking into the garden at Bridgend Farmhouse garden, Edinburgh. Opening party
Opening Party, 24 March 2018.
Development Manager Donna McArdle, City of Edinburgh Council Leader Adam McVey and Local Councillor Derek Howie - at Bridgend Farmhouse, Edinburgh, for the opening party.
Development Manager Donna McArdle, City of Edinburgh Council Leader Adam McVey and Local Councillor Derek Howie.

Principal Awards

MacEwan Award for social architecture, 2019