The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Political uncertainty still hampering Scottish construction market

The Scottish construction sector is experiencing a slowdown in growth, as Brexit and referendum uncertainty continues to cause concern, according to the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Construction Market Survey,

A net balance of 3% more chartered surveyors reported that construction workloads in the UK had risen, rather than fallen this quarter, although slightly stronger than the balance of -2% posted last quarter, it is a significant slowdown on the trend growth over the previous three years.

Private housing saw the fastest rate of growth compared to other construction sectors, with 15% more chartered surveyors reporting workloads had risen rather than fallen.  Both the private commercial and infrastructure sectors in Scotland saw a drop in construction activity during Q3.

Across the UK, the Midlands remains the engine of growth in UK construction, with 30% more respondents reporting a rise in activity, while London and the South East have seen growth levels moderate significantly due largely to a slowdown in activity in the private commercial sector.

In the Scottish private industrials sector, 9% more contributors reported a rise rather than a fall in workloads, meanwhile, activity in the public housing sector remained flat.

Looking further ahead, respondents predict generally subdued growth for the Scottish construction sector over the year to come, with 7% more respondents forecasting a rise in workloads rather than a fall. On average, contributors expect activity to rise by 2.5% over the next twelve months across the UK as a whole.

Despite the slowdown in activity, expectations for employment growth in Scotland have improved with 21% more respondents forecasting a rise rather than a fall, up from 11% in Q2.

However, both workload and employment expectations are still lower than pre-Q2 levels and anecdotal evidence from respondents suggests that uncertainty relating of the UK’s future relationship with Europe is still causing them concern regarding their future workloads.

In Q3, financial constraints remain the most significant impediment to growth throughout the UK, anecdotally linked to uncertainty, with 69% of contributors reporting such constraints to be holding back growth. Planning and regulatory delays are the next most substantial factor with 55% of respondents citing problems in this area.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn commented: “The picture painted by the Q3 survey is one of subdued growth, and although expectations have improved following the immediate shock of the vote to leave the EU, anecdotal evidence from respondents suggests that much uncertainty still remains on the outlook for the year ahead”

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Elite Ayrshire Business Circle NEXT MEETING

The next (FREE) business breakfast networking meeting of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle will take place at 8am on Friday 4 November at the University of the West of Scotland’s Ayr Campus.

In addition to providing another excellent opportunity to network with other leading business people, this meeting will feature a symposium surveying the political and economic landscape in Scotland post-Brexit and (possibly) prior to IndyRef2.

Speakers will include Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, CEO of Business for Scotland, and Matt Frew and Alan Murray of the University of the West of Scotland.

Complimentary buffet breakfast refreshments will be served.

This is an Open Meeting, so as well as members and their guests, all interested business people from across Ayrshire who wish to attend will be made most welcome.

To book your places, please RSVP to or TEXT 07833 667322.

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle
Norman Geddes (Executive Chairman)
Murdoch MacDonald (Managing).

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Deputy First Minister John Swinney unveils foundation stone at William McIlvanney Campus

John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister for Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills yesterday (Wednesday 12 October 2016) unveiled the foundation stone at the £45 million William McIlvanney Campus in Kilmarnock.

Due for completion in 2018 and named in honour of the world-renowned author who was born and educated in the town, the Campus is being provided by East Ayrshire Council, through the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme.

This will be delivered through the Scottish Futures Trust’s hub programme by Hub South West, with construction work being undertaken by Kier Construction.

The William McIlvanney Campus will host the new James Hamilton Primary School and Early Childhood Centre, with Kilmarnock Academy and James Hamilton Academy also transferring and merging to form a new Kilmarnock Academy.

A third new school, Sgoil na Coille Nuaidhe, offering Gaelic language provision will replace the Gaelic Medium Education provision currently offered at Onthank Primary School and Grange Academy.

Welcoming Mr Swinney, Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council said: “I’m delighted that John Swinney has joined us to share in this important milestone, and I know he shares my view that this is a significant and ambitious investment for the young people and communities of Kilmarnock.

“Willie McIlvanney was passionate about the provision of good education for young people and the unveiling of the foundation stone marks another positive chapter in the development of this exciting story for Kilmarnock.

“It will give our young people the best possible start in life ensuring they have access to the first-class learning environments needed to succeed in school, work and in life and will be a long-lasting and fitting tribute to the man.”

Mr Swinney said: “I would like to thank East Ayrshire Council for inviting me to help mark the start of the process which will result in a fantastic school campus that the whole community can be proud of.

“I am delighted that the Scottish Government has provided £24.5 million to this innovative project and I am particularly pleased to be able to unveil the foundation stone for the campus named in honour of one of Scotland’s great writers, William McIlvanney.

“It is extremely fitting that this state-of-the-art educational accommodation will be named after a man who started his professional life as a teacher and remained a dedicated and passionate supporter for the quality education of all our young people throughout the remainder of his life.”

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of development partner Hub South West Scotland added: “Hub South West are delighted to be a part of this exciting and innovative new campus that will substantially improve the provision of education and community facilities across East Ayrshire.

“Today’s event marks yet another milestone in this flagship development, as well as another significant achievement regarding the ongoing collaboration between Hub South West, Kier Construction and East Ayrshire Council.

“As work continues on the new William McIlvanney Campus, there is no question that this project will be of great benefit to the people of Kilmarnock and the surrounding area, and we are committed to delivering a first-class facility that will have a long lasting impression on the town.”

Managing director of Kier Construction’s Scotland and & north-east England business, Brian McQuade said: “Kier is a UK leader across education and we’re delighted to work with Hub South West Scotland on behalf of East Ayrshire Council to build this leading education facility which will benefit future generations for years to come.

“Around 200 people will work at the William McIlvanney campus site during peak times and we’re committed to using local suppliers and subcontractors to provide a diverse range of training, apprenticeship and employment opportunities and to stimulate the Ayrshire economy throughout the construction process.”

Members of William McIlvanney’s family, including his partner Siobhan Lynch witnessed the unveiled of the foundation stone, with MPs, MSPs, local elected members and a range of invited guests.

Work on the Campus is scheduled for completion early in 2018.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

House price growth remains firm in Scotland although demand weakens

House price growth in Scotland remained firm in September, despite negative readings from key indicators covering demand, agreed sales and new instructions, according to the latest RICS UK Residential Market Survey. 

Scottish house price growth remained in positive territory, with 33% more respondents reporting a rise rather than fall last month. Near term price expectations across Scotland were also steady, with 14% more chartered surveyors predicting a growth in prices over the next three months. Elsewhere in the UK, there remains a greater level of caution in central London where prices are expected to continue to edge lower, albeit only modestly, over the same period. Anecdotal evidence suggests that uncertainty following the EU vote along with Stamp Duty changes, are both continuing to adversely impact the top end of the market in particular.

The lack of choice for would-be purchasers also appears to be restricting overall sales activity, with newly agreed sales dropping slightly during September. The regional picture remains mixed however, and going forward, respondents’ optimism towards the sales outlook in Scotland improved, with growth expected over the next three months. Further out, over the next twelve months, contributors throughout the UK are projecting sales to pick up firmly in all areas.

Thomas Baird MRICS, Select Surveyors, Glasgow, commented: “There was a slow-down in Home Report instructions for September, which is indicative of the lack of housing stock coming on to the market.”

Interest from new buyers in Scotland also fell over the month, with 16% more respondents reporting a decrease in enquiries (rather than an increase). On a national level the latest results show considerable variation in demand across the UK, with some respondents seeing a recovery while others report a more stable trend.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn commented: "The UK market does now appear to be settling down following the significant headwinds encountered through the spring and summer. Buyers do appear to be returning, albeit relatively slowly, but the big issue that continues to be highlighted by respondents is the lack of fresh stock on the market, which has been evident in Scotland over the last year. Although this is not a new story, it is a significant one having ramifications for both prices and the level of turnover.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Ayr Racecourse shortlisted for Thistle Award

By: Iain Ferguson

AYR Racecourse has been shortlisted in Scottish Tourism’s most prestige awards ceremony.

The Racecourse is in the final three in the Best Sporting Event Category for the 2016 Scottish Thistle Awards for the Coral Scottish Grand National. 

The other two events shortlisted are the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships held at the Hydro in Glasgow and the British Swimming IPC Swimming World Championships which took place at Tollcross, Glasgow.

For more than 20 years the Scottish Thistle Awards have been recognised as the Oscars of the tourism industry in Scotland.

This is the first time the Coral Scottish Grand National, Scotland’s richest and most prestigious jumps race has been shortlisted for the Best Sporting Event at the Thistle Awards which will be held in Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel on Thursday November 24.

Ayr Racecourse managing director David Brown said: “This is a great honour for the Racecourse, and underlines the standing of the Coral Scottish Grand National, which for the last two years has been a sell-out.

“It truly is one of Scotland’s iconic sporting events, and the team at the Rcaecourse are delighted to have been shortlisted for a Thistle Award.”

For further information please contact Iain Ferguson on 01292 294972 or 07795 56569

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

£5m investment in leading aerospace company’s Prestwick site

One of the world’s leading aerostructure suppliers to both Airbus and Boeing has invested £5m at their site in Prestwick.

Spirit AeroSystems’s new paint and finishing centre was yesterday (Monday 10 October 2016) officially opened by Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown.

Supported by a Scottish Enterprise Regional Selective Assistance grant of £450,000, the investment will also safeguard 75 jobs. The company has also recently been awarded a £1m Scottish Enterprise Training Aid grant which supports the creation of 16 new jobs and safeguards 52.

Spirit AeroSystems designs and builds large aerostructures, including fuselages, pylons, nacelles and wing components, for both commercial and defence programs. From its facilities at Prestwick, its operation is known as Spirit AeroSystems (Europe) Limited. Spirit Europe is one of the largest airframe suppliers to Airbus and is a key supplier of major wing structures. Spirit Europe also produces wing structures for Boeing programs.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown said: “Aerospace is one of our highest value sectors, playing a vital role in Scotland’s economy. That is why I am delighted to welcome Spirit’s latest £5m investment in the facility, underlining the achievements of the team and showing real commitment to developing the workforce and operations in Prestwick. I am sure this will see the company continue to go from strength to strength, increasing efficiency and competitiveness and opening up new markets. I wish the Spirit team every success moving forward.”

Scott McLarty, VP UK and Malaysia commented: “This new finishing centre allows us to better meet the needs of our customers as production rates increase for single aisle aircraft. We are grateful for the investment by Scottish Enterprise and their partnership with us. This finishing centre improves our competitiveness as a world-class manufacturer and presents us with new opportunities to continually improve the quality products we deliver for our customers.”

Adrian Gillespie, Managing Director of Growth Companies, Innovation and Infrastructure at Scottish Enterprise said: “We are delighted to support Spirit AeroSystems in the development of this new finishing centre. This significantly enhances capability at the site and demonstrates their continued commitment to developing their operations here in Scotland.”

Monday, 10 October 2016

Ayrshire Growth Deal moves ahead as all three councils approve plans

Ambitious business proposals to transform Ayrshire’s economic prospects are to be submitted to the UK and Scottish Governments following a landmark agreement. All three Ayrshire Councils have now approved moves to target more than £350 million through the Ayrshire Growth Deal (AGD), after a decision at South Ayrshire Council to rubber stamp the plans.

The Strategic Business Case, recently approved by North and East Ayrshire Councils, was agreed at a meeting of South Ayrshire Council on Thursday 6 October. Councillors also agreed to provide £70,000 from reserves to help support work on the project until the end of September 2017.

[Pictured: Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport is just one of the growth 
areas being looked at as part of the Ayrshire Growth Deal.]

The AGD aims to develop and build on the success of the area’s key industries, including: aerospace and space, life sciences, and manufacturing. With more than 50% of Scotland’s aerospace employees based at Prestwick, and with Glasgow Prestwick Airport’s work to become the UK’s first licensed spaceport, South Ayrshire is in a strong position to capitalise on the economic opportunities these high value, high growth sectors present.

The AGD will also seek to enhance Ayrshire’s coast and capitalise on the opportunities that Ayrshire’s harbours and ports provide. Proposed projects will make a major contribution to the delivery of national tourism strategies such as ‘Awakening the Giant’ (marine tourism) as well as providing opportunities to address issues such as the provision of land for the development of new housing.

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council said, “All three Councils stand to reap the rewards of the Ayrshire Growth Deal, and we’re now well placed to take this project forward as we work to realise future growth and create new jobs.

“One of our major focal points is the aerospace and space sectors in Prestwick, which is already home to one of the UK’s leading aerospace clusters, and which could soon become Britain’s first operational spaceport.

“By pooling our resources and taking a partnership approach we stand the best chance of delivering benefits to all parts of Ayrshire as well as to the broader national economy, something that will allow local businesses to stand toe-to-toe with international competition.”

Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council said: "This is a significant milestone for the Ayrshire Growth Deal. The proposals for East Ayrshire will provide the infrastructure that will serve the manufacturing and engineering sectors across Ayrshire and the regeneration projects will help to create over 1000 jobs, which will greatly boost the local economy and benefit our local communities.

“The A77 is a key investment corridor for Ayrshire and the improvement of the Bellfield Interchange is critical to the development of this corridor in order to realise the potential for jobs and manufacturing growth. It will create a regionally significant Ayrshire Manufacturing development. The Ayrshire Engineering Park at Moorfield will create serviced high quality business space.

“The Halo is an innovative development that will revitalise Kilmarnock and benefit Ayrshire and the West of Scotland. It will create space for enterprise, innovation and entrepreneurs as well as commercial offices to attract new employers to the town. It will complement and add value to the new Ayrshire College.

“A fundamental principle of the proposals is to ensure inclusive growth so that all communities benefit. There will be initiatives to support start up, innovation and employment opportunities in Ayrshire's town and villages and programmes to ensure our communities will have the skills to participate in the increased job opportunities that a growing economy will bring.

“Taken together the package of proposals will realise the vision for Ayrshire to be a vibrant, outward looking, confident region that will attract investors and visitors and produce an impact across Scotland."

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire, said: "It is fantastic that we have reached this stage, and we're excited about the proposals we are putting forward and what it would mean for Ayrshire. We have worked hard to identify projects that will benefit not only our local economies but also the wider Scottish one too.

"Inclusive growth is key to these proposals and we firmly believe that the Ayrshire Growth Deal will deliver economic growth that will enrich all our communities.

"We have consulted extensively with partner organisations and the local business community to identify what the constraints to the Ayrshire economy are and where there is untapped potential for economic growth given the right support being available.

"We feel these proposals are ambitious and would make a huge difference to the Ayrshire economy. We look forward to getting further feedback from the UK and Scottish Governments as we look to submit our final proposals."

Now that all three Ayrshire Councils have agreed the Strategic Business Case the document can be submitted to the UK and Scottish Governments for consideration. If approved, the AGD could be implemented from mid-2017.

The Strategic Business Case can be found HERE.

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Monday, 3 October 2016

CKD Galbraith builds on success and appoints Pam Over as new CEO

CKD Galbraith, Scotland’s leading independent property consultancy, today announced the appointment of Pam Over as chief executive officer.

The firm also announced a significant rise in annual revenue and profit as the business continues to build on its success in the commercial, energy, residential and rural property sectors.

[Pictured: Iain Russell (right), chairman of CKD Galbraith, with Tim Kirkwood {left}, who has led the firm as chief executive for more than 20 years, and Pam Over (centre), currently chief operating officer and now newly appointed CEO as from January 2017.]

Mrs Over is currently chief operating officer and leads the commercial property division.

From January 2017 she will succeed Tim Kirkwood, who has led the firm as chief executive for more than 20 years. Tim will remain a partner with the firm and will focus on his portfolio of clients in the rural sector.

In the year to 1st April 2016, the firm’s revenues grew by 5.4% to just under £12m and profit to just under £3M. The firm employs 236 staff in 11 offices across Scotland.

Iain Russell, chairman of CKD Galbraith, said: “We are delighted to report our continued success as a multi-disciplinary, market-leading property firm.  We have doubled our farm and estates agency income over the last year and have seen strong growth in the commercial division where only in the last few weeks we have completed significant international property investments in Edinburgh.

“We are delighted with Pam’s appointment as CEO. Her depth and breadth of career experience and commercial overview will provide energy and good judgement to the future development of our business. Tim has carried out the role of CEO for this firm, and its predecessors, for 24 years.  Over that period the business has been developed from a modest Highland-based land agency practice to the national firm it is today.  

“Tim has produced opportunity, employment, expansion and profit, all delivered with endless patience, good humour, deep intelligence, and a unique blend of wisdom and creativity. He elected last year to hand on the office of CEO in 2016, in order to provide continuity of business management and to allow a successor to build a new and broad-based executive team to take the firm forward. We are wholly committed to further growth and continuing to outshine competition within Scotland, while also undertaking commissions from London to Belfast.”

Pam Over said: “I am absolutely delighted that the partners in the firm have given their support to my appointment and I have an extremely hard act to follow. Tim has – more than anyone else - been instrumental in the development and growth of the firm and is handing over the reins of an extraordinarily successful business. I am looking forward to the challenge of picking up the baton and continuing our growth.”

Tim Kirkwood said: “I have been very fortunate and privileged to hold the office of CEO for so many years in which the firm has become established as a successful national company. This is testament to the quality of personal service offered by staff across our offices. I remain committed to the firm and believe that the time is right for us to plan for the future. I look forward to working closely with Pam who has outstanding business acumen and the skill to lead the firm into its next phase.” 

About CKD Galbraith

CKD Galbraith is an independent property consultancy employing 236 staff in offices across Scotland including Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Cupar, Inverness, Castle Douglas, Ayr, Elgin, Galashiels, Kelso, and Aberdeen, offering local knowledge, national expertise and enjoying international reach.

The firm is Scotland’s largest and leading rural consultancy managing and providing advice on farm, forestry, land and estate interests on over three million acres.  CKD Galbraith provides the full range of property consulting services across the residential, commercial, rural and renewable energy sectors throughout Scotland and northern England.

To find out more about CKD Galbraith visit 

CKD Galbraith’s Ayr Office is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

East Ayrshire Council adds backing to ambitious plans for important Kilmarnock site

A landmark regeneration plan that could create around 1,000 permanent new jobs on the site of the former Diageo bottling plant in Kilmarnock was today (28 September) given the backing of East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet.

The ambitious “HALO” Urban Park project, spearheaded by Kilmarnock-based developers Klin Group, will be mainly funded by the private sector but has already secured financial backing from the site’s owners, Diageo, who have pledged £2m to support the proposed regeneration and to donate the 23 acres of land, subject to the project meeting certain economic and community benefit goals and securing financial backing from central government. Today, East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet also approved £2m of support for the project.

East Ayrshire Council will now seek a further £10m financial support for the scheme from the Scottish and UK Governments through the Ayrshire Growth Deal. The Halo project is one of a number of economic regeneration projects the Council is putting forward, alongside North and South Ayrshire Councils, for funding totaling £359m through the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

Marie Macklin (pictured above), Chair of Klin Group, said: “Kilmarnock deserves the very best for this iconic site and that is what we are setting out to deliver. We listened carefully to what the people of the town had to say and the HALO Project will provide a fitting and sustainable legacy for the Hill Street site that will last for generations of Kilmarnock residents to come.”

David Cutter, President of Global Supply & Procurement, Diageo plc said: “We are delighted to partner with East Ayrshire Council to support this regeneration proposal for Kilmarnock. Our ambition has always been to see this site redeveloped to the benefit of the local economy and community.

“Alongside the new college campus which is due to open soon at the site, we believe this regeneration plan will create a positive legacy for Kilmarnock and we hope it will gain the necessary support from the Ayrshire Growth Deal to make it a reality.”

Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “These proposals are a key element of East Ayrshire Council’s ambitions for the Ayrshire Growth Deal and will greatly contribute to the regeneration of Kilmarnock, breathing new life into the remainder of the site previously occupied by the Johnnie Walker bottling plant.”

Today’s news represents a major step forward for the project’s champions, Kilmarnock-based Klin Group, who were the original visionaries for the Hill Street site and who secured an option to develop the site from Diageo. Since then, wide community consultation has taken place alongside other research locally, nationally and internationally. The result is an imaginative, brown field regeneration scheme that is set to revitalise Kilmarnock and boost the wider economy of Ayrshire.

The proposal is for an Urban Park that will create a commercial, cultural, leisure and lifestyle quarter for Kilmarnock. Plans include:

A Resilience Capability Business Centre for digital and online resilience businesses in research, development and application, locating innovators in financial services, private investors, insurance and technology companies
An enterprise, engineering, manufacturing and textiles centre for small and medium sized businesses
1,000 capacity education, conference and exhibition centre (benefiting local schools, colleges and universities)
A cultural hub for small creative businesses and social enterprises in crafts, film, art, music, media, literature, marketing and technology
A year-round leisure and water sports facility
3,000m2 of commercial offices
Health & wellbeing premises, life-style shops and cafes
Landscaped public plaza
175 affordable rented houses
An energy centre powering a district heating system
Public space including new road and footpath networks connecting to the Rail Station and town centre.

The HALO proposal will be a phased development that will:

Create around 1,000 sustainable jobs
Enhance Kilmarnock’s appeal as a destination for commerce, leisure and learning
Strengthen the resilience of Kilmarnock town centre
Capitalise on the site’s rail and motorway links
Complement and add value to the adjoining, newly built Ayrshire College
Contribute to the wider economic growth of Ayrshire.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Confucius Hub strengthens ties with Chinese language and culture

Young people across South Ayrshire are being given the opportunity to develop language and cultural ties with China. The Council officially opened its first Confucius Hub at Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr on Thursday 22 September, 2016.

South Ayrshire Council has been actively working with the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools, which is a national centre, funded by the Scottish Government and Hanban/the Confucius Institute Headquarters of China. It was established in 2012 in partnership with Tianjin Education Commission. The purpose is to promote Chinese language and culture in schools. From that beginning the Council has developed its own dedicated classroom hubs, which will be working with secondary and primary schools across South Ayrshire by the end of 2016.

In 2015/16, as part of the Hub programme, a Chinese teacher worked with 600 young people aged 3-17 from schools across South Ayrshire. Activity included: improving language skills, and raising cultural awareness through activities such as Chinese dance and calligraphy.

Other activity has included two 17-day cultural tours to China. In 2015, participants took part in a celebration in Beijing with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at an event designed to foster closer relations and business links between Scotland and China.

Councillor Margaret Toner, South Ayrshire Council’s Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning, said the Hub approach made sense. “The Hub at Queen Margaret Academy has already established itself as a valuable resource that’s benefited hundreds of people, and we will build on that success in the coming years.

“China already enjoys close ties with Scotland and anything which prepares the next generation to take advantage of new opportunities is welcome.

“There are real opportunities to attract fresh investment to South Ayrshire from China in the aerospace and engineering sectors, and by broadening access to education we will equip our young people to capitalise on rewarding careers.”

A spokesperson for Hangan said: "We congratulate South Ayrshire on the launch of its Confucius Classroom Hub. Hanban acts as a bridge between Scotland and China, contributing to closer friendship between our two nations. We are looking forward to seeing the growth of the learning and teaching of Mandarin in Scotland as this partnership progresses.”

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Ayrshire man’s dedication sees old Galston building restored

People buy and restore old buildings for many reasons, and with Conservation Area Regeneration (CARS) funding available through East Ayrshire Council and Historic Envirionment Scotland, more owners are now taking on ambitious renovation projects. But Stephen Scoular’s story is more unusual than most - a tale of detective work which led to him being party to an archeological dig and tracking down a German-based Russian opera singer, all because of his dislike of some peeling paint in Galston.

Driving to work from Galston to Glasgow every day, businessman Stephen Scoular became increasingly frustrated every time he stopped at the traffic lights at the Cross. Not because he’s an impatient driver, but just because of the sad state of repair of the building on the corner, one of the oldest in town.

Eventually he heard that the top flat in the building at 33-35 Bridge Street was up for sale at a very reasonable price (partly due to its poor state of repair) and, bursting to give it “a good coat of paint and a tidy up”, he put in a successful offer.

Of course, true to the nature of old buildings, he soon discovered that it needed more than just a coat of paint, but was unable to make much progress with improving it while others also shared the building. He explains: “I really thought if I just bought the flat and tidied it up a bit that would do, but there were issues with the roof and the general fabric of the building which I couldn’t fix without access to the whole building, so the simplest solution seemed to be to buy the other owners out.”

“And that’s where it got a bit more complicated. It turned out that part of the rest of the building belonged to a Russian opera singer, now living in Bonn in Germany, who’d bought it a number of years before, intending to use it as a music school because of its proximity to Moscow – the one up the road, not the one in her homeland! She’d never visited it and the property was lying empty and deteriorating.

“It took some detective work to track her down, but fortunately eventually we were able to acquire the remainder of the building. Then, with the help of East Ayrshire Council’s CARS team, we were able to set about planning an extensive programme of renovation and repair.”

Working in conjunction with the CARS team, Rebecca Cadie and Oliver Elliott of ARPL Architects and Ewan Mackie of Prime Build who oversaw the construction, Stephen has set about a comprehensive programme of renovation using strictly prescribed traditional methods and materials, in keeping with the rules of the CARS ethos. Funded jointly by East Ayrshire Council and Historic Environment Scotland, the scheme gives owners of conservation area buildings up to 90% of the cost of renovating architecturally important properties which would otherwise be uneconomic to repair.

In this case, the age of the building which is thought to date to the 1830s, and the suspicion that it might have been built on the site of an earlier settlement, meant that the floor had to be lifted and an archeological dig carried out. While it found no trace of the earlier habitation, it did reveal traces of the building’s former use as a pub, with the discovery of some old coins and clay pipes – once widely given out as a sales promotion to beer drinkers in the days before cigarettes.

Stephen is planning to feature the items in a specially built display case once all the work is complete. He says: “What started as a plan to tidy up an eyesore has become a bit of a passion, and now it’s about to become my new place of work! I’m relocating my office here and I’ve got a tenant who will be taking over the ground floor and setting up a new business. It will be good to see it coming back into use, and we’re getting a special display case made to show off the artefacts discovered during the dig. I’m delighted that we’ve managed to save this building and bring some new life to Galston Cross. None of it would have been possible without the help and support I’ve had through the CARS project.”

As a builder, Ewan has been involved in many such projects in and around Ayrshire in recent years. Projects like this have helped keep skilled tradesmen in employment through the worst of the recession, and a skills shortage has meant that we’re having to train more young people so we can meet the specialist requirements of the contracts. Wherever possible we employ local craftsmen for these heritage jobs and it’s great to see their skills being kept alive. With so many old buildings in the area, there’s plenty of restoration work to keep us busy for years to come as long as there’s funding like this.”

Councillor Jim Buchanan, Cabinet Member for Economy, East Ayrshire Council said: “This project exemplifies all that’s so exciting about regeneration. Helping preserve our architectural heritage, bringing companies together to co-operate, employing local skilled people, providing training opportunities and creating wind and watertight, fit for purpose buildings and business premises in the heart of our towns. The people of Galston have waited patiently to see these first CARS projects near completion, and this is just the first of many positive changes to the townscape which we’ll be seeing in the months and years to come.”

For further information CLICK HERE

ARPL Architects Ltd is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.