RESIDENTS of what is thought to be Scotland’s oldest continuously inhabited village are celebrating after fulfilling the dream of bringing their village green into community ownership.

Newstead village green has been up for sale for the last few years. Planning permission was granted to the private landowner to build a four-bedroom house on the site, which lies at the heart of the village, in the Scottish Borders near Melrose. In response, residents mounted a huge campaign to raise enough money to buy the land. Their aim is to develop and maintain the space for the benefit of the community.

Newstead is the home of Trimontium, one of the most significant Roman sites in the British Isles. The green sits on a historic crossroads in one of the oldest parts of the village. It is a well-maintained space with two memorial benches and an impressive cherry blossom tree at its centre. It’s a natural meeting place for residents and walkers and is a well-loved feature of the village.

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In 2020, landowner JSC Estates gained planning permission for the development despite substantial local opposition. The community was devastated by the decision but quickly came together to find a way to buy the land, originally on the market for offers of more than £125,000.

The Newstead Village Community Trust (NVCT) was formed and eventually went onto be awarded stage one funding from the Scottish Land Fund.

This was to support preparation for a capital application to help buy the land. The community then engaged on a lengthy and complex mission to assemble the required evidence to submit the stage two application.

In December 2022, the community’s effort was rewarded with an offer of £71,250 from the Scottish Land Fund (which is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund).

Newstead rallied to raise a further £10,750 through local fundraising. NVCT’s offer of £82,000 was then accepted by the landowner.

NVCT chairman Mark Lovatt said: “NVCT is pleased to announce that Newstead village green now belongs to the community! This is an incredible feat for such a small village.

“The passion, creativity, and sheer determination of residents, and friends of Newstead, means our village green is safely in the hands of the community. It can now be enjoyed for generations to come.

He added: “NVCT is now ready to embark on post-acquisition plans for the green which are laid out in Newstead’s Community Action Plan. The plan was developed following a village-wide consultation where residents showed overwhelming support to buy the village green for the benefit of locals and visitors.

“They came up with lots of great ideas as to how they would like to see the space developed for the community, including a gathering shelter to host informal get-togethers, pop-up shops, and a calendar of activities. Residents are also keen to encourage native species to the area, create a small community garden and provide learning opportunities about our historic village.

“A huge thank you to everyone who has helped bring about this momentous achievement. In particular, all the residents who put their hands in their pocketsand donated what they could. But also, the Scottish Land Fund for their encouragement and financial support, and Councillor David Parker and Scottish Borders Council who provided the means to develop our community action plan to accompany our funding applications. It just goes to show that when communities work together, great things can happen, even when the odds are stacked against you. Newstead, take a bow!”