The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Saturday, 1 December 2007

First zero carbon homes in Scotland to be built in Ayrshire

PLANS to build the first Scottish sustainable homes to zero carbon standard have been unveiled.

A consortium of EcoPlus Homes, Sustainable Homes Scotland (SHS), Formworks UK and SIPS Industries can now confirm that they have a site in Ayrshire where they are ready to begin building as soon as Spring 2008 the first zero carbon homes to a design prototype they have been testing.

The development involves an investment of £50 million, and will create 150 new jobs in East Ayrshire.


The homes will be built in Galston, East Ayrshire, at a site (pictured above) owned by Allseasons at the Meadows, an ecological tourism development.

Stephen Huber commercial director of SHS, a networking platform who organised the first Scottish Zero Carbon Housing Conference in Edinburgh, said: “We are excited to see this sustainable project coming together. We want to take all aspects of sustainability into account, and utilise the experience in highly energy-efficient buildings that has been gained over the last 15 years in Europe. The sustainable dimension of the project is unprecedented in its scale and dimension in this country, and will serve as a showcase for zero carbon housing in the UK and the whole world. We want to bring Scotland to the forefront of sustainable housing, as many other countries in Europe are many years of experience ahead.

[Artist's impression of the new development. CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW FULL-SIZE VERSION]

Attended by members of the Scottish Government, prominent housebuilding bodies and industry professionals across Scotland, the Scottish Zero Carbon Housing Conference was well received and shed light on the various aspects of sustainable and zero carbon housing.

One approach that has been tested for years in Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland is the Passive House concept. It is a voluntary building standard that exceeds the present regulations. Built according to this standard, the need for heating will be reduced by 90%. Compared to conventional build, which has an average heating demand of 150kWh/m2a, these homes need only 15kWh/m2a.The remaining heating and hot water demand can be covered almost completely by renewable energies. Zero Carbon Housing will be achieved by additionally reducing the electricity demand and alternative means of supply.

Eco Plus Homes are based in Edinburgh and specialise in highly energy-efficient and environmentally friendly housing. Thomas Froehlich, technical director of EcoPlus Homes comments: “The site, beautifully situated around a lake, is the ideal place for us to commence such a development. With the commercial application of highly energy-efficient housing, we want to show that ecology and economy can go together.”

Allseasons at the Meadows is an ecological tourism development based at Galston, East Ayrshire. The site has been created as a nature reserve by the owners of the company Andrew (pictured above) and Jennifer Malcolm, and the land and 25 acre loch are home to many types of wildlife and endemic and migratory birdlife.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Fouters Restaurant in Ayr celebrates 30 years of fine dining

DESCRIBED on its website as “the small restaurant with the big reputation”, the ever popular Fouters in Ayr’s Academy Street, off the Sandgate, is celebrating its 30th anniversary of fine dining this year.

Outwardly, nothing much has changed. Located in an 18th century converted bank vault down off street level, the stone floors, uncomplicated décor and sense of subterranean calm make it a rather serene and familiar dining venue for its numerous regular clientele.

But new furnishings and fittings and a relatively new man at the helm have given the place an extra buzz and excitement.

George Ramage (45) took over earlier this year from Brian and Odette Murphy, and looks set to carry the famous restaurant on to new heights of achievement and popularity.

George, originally from Greenock, but who now lives in Troon with his partner of ten years Fiona, already boasts a distinguished CV in the catering industry.

Trained at the Gleneagles Hotel, he continued his career at Malin Court and several country house hotels in England before being appointed head chef at Auchrannie House Hotel on the Isle of Arran, where he stayed 10 years before moving to the Bank restaurant in Prestwick.

Insistent upon using fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from local suppliers wherever possible, George continues a long tradition at Fouters of specialising in a cuisine that is essentially a blend of classical French and Scottish but with an original twist.

One of his favourite signature dishes is roast rack of new season local lamb with pine nut, garlic and herb crust accompanied by honey roast root vegetables and redcurrant and thyme jus.

Asked what his ambitions for Fouters is, George replied: “I want Fouters to be not only a special occasion restaurant as it has perhaps tended to have been in the past, but somewhere for everyone to come, on any occasion.”

Prices remain eminently reasonable at this fine dining venue that has already achieved success, but whose best days are undoubtedly yet to come.

For more information telephone 01292 261391 e-mail or visit


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Thursday, 29 November 2007

New Trust takes ownership of historic Dumfries House in Ayrshire

OWNERSHIP of one of the most valuable and intact historic properties in the UK, Dumfries House in Ayrshire, has passed to The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust it was announced yesterday.

The Trust has been established to preserve and maintain the house and its magnificent contents and open it to the public, which is expected to happen in summer 2008.

The news comes at the summit of a hard fought and successful campaign launched by SAVE Britain’s Heritage in March 2007 to save Dumfries House for the nation after it had been put on the market by John Bute, the 7th Marquis of Bute.

Situated in Cumnock, East Ayrshire, about 50 minutes from Glasgow and 20 from Glasgow Prestwick Airport, the house is one of the most important Georgian houses in the UK.

Dating from the time of the Scottish Enlightenment it contains an outstanding collection of untouched 18th century furniture selected specifically for the house at the time it was built, including pieces by Thomas Chippendale and his Scottish contemporaries William Matthie, Alexander Peter and Francis Brodie.

Its contents of historic furniture were also due to be sold separately at an auction held by Christie's on 12 and 13 July 2007.

Most of the interior of Dumfries House is exactly as it was when it was first built.

In May 2007 The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, approached SAVE to offer its support and announced its pledge of £2 million - the largest in The Art Fund’s history, later increased to £2.25m.

The Art Fund was able, because of its status as a ‘Schedule 3’ body, to undertake a private treaty sale, which reduces the price to the buyers because the Inland Revenue writes off capital gains tax when the purchaser is a heritage body.

“We are thrilled that The Art Fund has been able to act as the formal legal purchaser of the house and its unique collection, enabling the sale to be organised at the eleventh hour,” said Art Fund director David Barry.

“The Art Fund has been a driving force in putting together the unique funding package behind this extraordinary campaign, and I look forward to the opening of the house and its unique contents for the public to enjoy next year.”

Funding was also attracted by the Art Fund from The Monument Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement.

Other major contributors include the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Scottish Government, and HRH The Prince of Wales, through the Prince’s Charities Foundation, who responded generously to the challenge of saving the unique collection.


"Call for prince's plan to put jobs ahead of design"

To read article CLICK HERE
Ayrshire business makes success of breeding Chinese Shar Pei dogs

A YOUNG woman from Stevenston in Ayrshire has turned a life long love of animals into a growing business.

Jennifer Grant (pictured above) has established a new company that breeds Chinese Shar Pei dogs and is the only mini Shar Pei breeder in the UK. A talented artist, Jennifer also offers fine art portraits of the Shar Pei breed.

Her business, Jen’s House of Wrinkles – named after the Shar Pei’s distinctive deep wrinkles - is already going from strength to strength, with customers showing interest from across the UK.

Jennifer has always loved Shar Pei, and her dogs are part of the family. Earlier this year, she made the decision to use her experience, passion and knowledge of the breed to start up her own business.

To help turn her business ideas into business reality, Jennifer visited Business Gateway in Irvine which provided her with information, advice and support.

Her Business Gateway adviser worked with her to develop a professional business plan, put her ideas into action and put her in touch with a number of other agencies that provided financial support including Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust, Broker Scotland and Jobcentre Plus.

A mother of one daughter, Jennifer has had to overcome a number of difficulties including coping with complex Crohn’s disease and severe dyslexia. Despite this, Jen’s House of Wrinkles is proving to be a real success.

Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire Business Gateway manager Joy Love said: “Jennifer is a great example of someone who is determined to succeed. We’ve worked closely with her in the months leading up to the launch of her new business, and it is clear that she is doing something that she is passionate about. I have no doubt that she will make a great success of Jen’s House of Wrinkles.”

Jennifer said: “I have been interested in this unique loving breed of dogs for many years, and I am delighted to be able to share my love of Shar Pei with my customers. The help I received from Business Gateway has been invaluable, and I am still in regular contact with my business adviser to make sure that Jen’s House of Wrinkles succeeds. I have combined my love of art and my love of Shar Pei, and am now running my dream business.”

For more information about Jennifer’s business, visit the Jen’s House of Wrinkles website or call 01294 467096.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Ayrshire Chamber demands that Air Route Development Fund be retained

AYRSHIRE Chamber of Commerce is today calling upon the Scottish Parliament’s Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee to amend the Draft Scottish Budget to ensure the continuation of the Air Route Development Fund (ARDF), which is set to be axed by the Scottish Government.

Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Bob Leitch (pictured above) said: “We are extremely disappointed at the Scottish Government’s plans to axe the Air Route Development Fund. This fund, administered in conjunction with Scottish Enterprise, has assisted in bringing dozens of new direct air services to Scotland’s airports, and has created jobs and wealth to the Scottish economy.

“Indeed a recent Scottish Enterprise survey found that the Ryanair’s Glasgow Prestwick Airport flights alone have helped generate £146 million and 2,537 jobs in Scotland.

“This is a magnificent return on an investment of just £14.4 million over the past three years, and is exactly the kind of project we need to continue if Scotland is to meet the economic growth targets set by the new Scottish Government.

“Scotland’s economy and geography demand quality air links to our key markets around the globe, and that is exactly what the Air Route Development Fund has delivered, linking Prestwick with 25 destinations across Europe.

“The first two years of a new air service are often make or break in terms of its long term sustainability, and that is why the year one subsidy provided by the ARDF has proved so vital.

“Of course there were issues with the previous ARDF scheme under EU law, but we believe that a similar scheme could be EU-compliant in terms of start-up aid, and we are calling on the Government to pursue this option.

“Few other Scottish Government initiatives deliver as much bang for the taxpayer’s buck as the Air Route Development Fund. It is time that the Government recognised this and built upon its success.”

Scottish Government

Scottish Enterprise

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Boost for trade between Ayrshire in Scotland and Hungary

SOUTH Ayrshire Council’s headquarters was the venue for an extravaganza of specialist Hungarian produced food and wine products during a Hungarian trade seminar that was hosted by Provost Winifred Sloan.

[South Ayrshire Council Provost Winifred Sloan is pictured with the delegates at the seminar in the County Hall of the Council’s headquarters. Click on image to view full-size version.]

The Trade Commission of the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary, in association with Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, ITDH, the Hungarian Investment Trade Development Agency, The British-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce, the Hungarian Agricultural Marketing Centre (AMC) and South Ayrshire Council invited a range of business people to a Hungarian trade seminar.

Provost Sloan said: “With Ryanair’s recently launched flights direct from Glasgow Prestwick Airport to Budapest, business relationships can now be encouraged with our new Hungarian neighbours. The seminar was a showcase for the best food and wine from Hungary, and provided an opportunity for our local business people to establish connections. I am sure that the seminar will be the foundation stone of strong ties that business people from Ayrshire will build with Hungarians in the coming years.”

Several speakers addressed the seminar including: Provost Sloan; Tom Drysdale, Hon Consul for Hungary in Scotland; István Varga, Chairman British Chamber of Commerce Hungary; Péter Horváth, Hungarian Trade Commissioner in the UK; Dr Ray Noble, Research Consultant, Giltech Ltd, Ayr and Edit Szabo, Deputy CEO, AMC, Budapest.

The seminar was arranged to assist:

* companies seeking to access the Hungarian market and the markets of Eastern and South East Europe from a centre in Hungary;
* companies interested in importing Hungarian products, especially companies in the food and wine business, hotels, restaurants, wine merchants etc;
* companies interested in construction, ICT, life sciences and energy projects; and
* tourism-related businesses and tour operators.
Gaiety Theatre in Ayr to close "temporarily"

THE stage and auditorium areas of Ayr Gaiety Theatre will be "temporarily" closed from 31 March next year, according to a statement from South Ayrshire Council today.

The theatre will be examined, and a report compiled detailing any building work or necessary improvements required in order to meet modern operating demands and health and safety standards.

South Ayrshire Council says that the Gaiety Theatre celebrated its centenary in 2002 and, like many buildings of its age, has to be constantly maintained and monitored to ensure that it is in good working order.

The Council has commissioned CRPG (a specialist company in updating and renovating threatres). In order to carry out an examination of the theatre and to produce an accurate report, access to all areas of the auditorium and stage areas will be required.

South Ayrshire Council’s Portfolio Carrier for Community Services, Councillor Margaret Toner said: “The Gaiety Theatre is a great asset for Ayr and South Ayrshire, but like many older buildings, it requires high maintenance. The report that has been commissioned will let us know the extent of any work that should or could be carried out to look after the building and maintain it to the proper standards.

“Initially the stage and audience area will be examined, and this will mean that the theatre will be closed. Popplewells Café Bar and the Box Office will remain open while the examination of the theatre takes place, and this will mean that the public can still use the facilities, and the staff can continue to work there.

“I am looking on the positive side that a temporary closure and some inconvenience now will eventually lead to better facilities that will benefit the artists who perform, the audiences and the staff. Ayr Town Hall has recently been refurbished, and many artists will be able to change venues and perform there while the Gaiety is temporarily closed.

“During the temporary closure Council staff will carry out consultation with the public to see if the way in which the Gaiety operates can be improved. The type of artists and performances that appear on the stage will be looked at to see if what is being produced meets what the public would really like to see. It is an ideal time to try and encourage younger people, and others who do not currently use the Gaiety’s facilities, to let us know how they would like to see it evolve in the future.”

The Gaiety Theatre has a total of 584 seats on three separate levels that have been used by local people and visitors to the area for over 100 years. There have been a number of changes made to the theatre since it was built - including an extension, refurbishment, wheelchair access, infra-red sound system for the hearing impaired and a café bar and studio.
Lochgreen House Hotel cast in supporting role in
hit TV show ‘Rosemary Shrager’s School for Cooks’

IT'S been described as a cross between The Apprentice and Masterchef, and now the hit ITV show ‘Rosemary’s Shrager’s School for Cooks’ is set to showcase Costley & Costley’s Lochgreen House Hotel in Troon.

The televised knockout competition gives aspiring amateur cooks the chance to win real training jobs as chefs in some of Britain's top restaurants, with one ultimate winner. Each week a group of aspiring amateur cooks visit Rosemary’s cookery school where they are given the chance to prove their culinary credentials, tested against each other, taught new skills and put under pressure to see if they’ve got what it takes to cut it in a commercial restaurant kitchen.

At the end of each week the best cooks are given the chance to work in a top restaurant with the host chef then rewarding the winning cook with a week’s training in their restaurant.

[Picture shows: Willie Pike, Executive Chef and Head of Craft Training for Costley and Costley Hoteliers.]

As the series reaches its climax, a couple of trainee chefs visit Lochgreen House Hotel to learn under the guidance of Willie Pike, Executive Chef and Head of Craft Training for Costley and Costley Hoteliers.

Willie said, “We really put the two contestants through their paces at Lochgreen. After visiting Troon harbour to collect langoustines, we challenge them to prepare a meal at Lochgreen and – unbeknown to the trainees – the meal they are asked to prepare is for Rosemary herself.”

Willie goes on to appear as a guest judge at the series finale when he helps choose which of the three finalists will win a job for a year working as a trainee chef. But he’s remaining tight-lipped about the identity of the eventual winner.

‘Rosemary’s Shrager’s School for Cooks’ is broadcast on ITV at 3pm each Monday.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Ayr Racecourse and Western House Hotel gain Investors in People

AYR Racecourse and the Western House Hotel have been awarded the Investors In People standard.

The Racecourse employs 210 staff, with a further 80 working at Western House and Ayr Racecourse general manager William Gorol said he was “delighted and proud” both organisations had been awarded the prestigious standard.

[Picture: Corporate entertainment facilities at Ayr Racecourse.]

IIP status is awarded to organisations and businesses that have consistently demonstrated good practice in their approach to people management and development, as defined by the Investors in People national standard and confirmed through independent assessment.

William Gorol added: “As employers, we pride ourselves on our commitment to staff training. It is important that we have staff who know their business and provide the public with the best possible service.

“Investors In People is a recognised standard throughout industry, and I am delighted and proud that both Ayr Racecourse and Western House Hotel have achieved this standard.”

Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire operations director Jim Reid said: “I am delighted that Ayr Racecourse and Western House Hotel have been recognised for the Investors in People status.

“Tourism is an important industry in Ayrshire and forward-thinking organisations like these will ensure that it continues to develop and grow. It is a great credit to all of the employees that this standard has been achieved, and it demonstrates a high degree of commitment from everyone involved.

“Successful organisations focus on the skills and learning of their people, and Ayrshire’s labour supply is one of our strengths. I would encourage other businesses and individuals to take their lead from this success story and make workforce development a priority.”