The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Friday, 18 July 2014

South Ayrshire Council welcomes Ayr Renaissance report and progress

South Ayrshire Council has agreed a new three-year business plan submitted by Ayr Renaissance LLP – the partnership that delivers regeneration services to the Council.

[Pictured: James Knox, Chair of Ayr Renaissance.]

Under the terms of the agreement, Ayr Renaissance produces a rolling plan every year, detailing how it will drive town centre regeneration for three years.

Ayr Renaissance has overseen the refurbishment of the iconic ‘pink buildings’ which form the northern gateway to Ayr.

Acquired a number of key buildings central to the redevelopment of the Sandgate end of town

Appointed the Princes Foundation for Built Community to advise and consult on the redevelopment of the area.

Launched the MiAyr app, with sponsorship from Ayr Central, the Gaiety Theatre, Stagecoach and Safe Ayr – with some 2,700 people registering to download the app and 650 registered businesses

Launched a small grants scheme for all properties in the Ayr Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) area 

Run a series of town centre summits  in partnership with the Council offering residents and businesses a platform to voice their opinions and ideas on the future development of Ayr.

And undertaken a range of other initiatives such as installing electronic footfall counters, running a lecture series on architecture and heritage conservation, appointing  town centre officer responsible for managing the town centre through the development of a town centre zoning system to increase retailer involvement in town centre management.

The Council has now agreed the latest business plan which will focus on the regeneration and development work in the Ayr North/Riverside area – with a number of options being developed to transform this part of the town through a comprehensive masterplan for the area.

In addition, the ideas and suggestions generated by the town centre summits in 2013 will be progressed, with a refreshed framework to deliver significant improvements in the town over the next five years.

James Knox, Chair of Ayr Renaissance, said “I am delighted that South Ayrshire Council have backed our plans and share our vision for the town. Their generous support is very welcome and we will ensure that the resources put at our disposal are invested to the maximum benefit of the town. On behalf of the Board of Ayr Renaissance, I would like to thank both the administration and the opposition for their support.”

Welcoming the achievements and refreshed business plan, Councillor Bill Grant (pictured above), Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Tourism and Leisure said: “Ayr Renaissance has done a fantastic job in helping transform the pink buildings and drive regeneration in the town in the last three years.

“Development of the MiAyr app is a superb way to take advantage of modern technology to promote and connect local businesses with customers.

“The town centre summits have been invaluable in helping develop ideas and opinions on what we need to address next to support and maximise retail and business opportunities for the area.

“We can now build on these successes and look forward to a new phase in the development of the Riverside area thanks to an exciting and far reaching masterplan for the town, which will benefit all residents, businesses and retailers in and around Ayr.”

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

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Private sector continues to provide forward momentum in Scottish construction market

RICS UK Construction Market Survey, Q2 2014

Private housing, commercial and industrial sectors are driving growth within the construction industry across Scotland, according to RICS Q2 2014 Construction Market Survey.

[Pictured: Sarah Speirs, Director RICS Scotland.]

A net balance of 29% of chartered surveyors stated an increase in private house building as the property market in Scotland continues to recover. With a net balance of 26% of respondents reporting an increase in construction workloads during the last three months, positive signs were also reported in the private commercial sector (a net balance of 26%).

Additionally, investment in infrastructure within Scotland continues to have a positive impact, with a net balance of 37% reporting a growth in infrastructure construction in the second half of 2014.

However, a reported shortage of construction professionals in Scotland (a net balance of 37%) is likely to present a challenge to further strong growth in the sector.

Sarah Speirs, Director RICS Scotland, commented: “The UK construction market is mirroring the natural consequence of a rise in demand after five subdued years. The upsurge in housing demand is creating pressure across an industry which failed to invest in attracting new talent or in the training of existing employees at the height of the economic downturn and this in turn is creating similar effects among material supply.

“The good news is that there is reason for optimism, with workloads, profits and employment all forecast to deliver growth over the next 12 months and it is now the responsibility of industry to invest in training and technology to ensure it capitalises on these opportunities.”

Employment prospects for the sector remain firm as the industry gets to grips with meeting rapidly rising demands from a historically low base. Across Scotland a net balance of 52% of respondents expect employment to rise over the next 12 months. Teamed with 58% of chartered surveyors predicting an increase in workloads during the next year, the recovery of the construction sector looks set to continue.

Schools of the future nearing current reality

Two superb new school developments are a step closer to reality after South Ayrshire Council agreed plans for the development of a new Ayr Academy and a comprehensive refurbishment of Marr College in Troon.

[Pictured: South Ayrshire Councillor Margaret Toner commented: "The new developments at Ayr Academy and Marr College mark a truly exciting moment for both schools."]

The proposal to build a state-of the art Ayr Academy learning campus next door to the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) was agreed earlier this year and negotiations with UWS for the site to be finalised are well advanced.

Central to the new arrangement will be the opportunity to develop close educational links with UWS and Ayrshire College, particularly for senior Ayr Academy pupils, offering them exceptional opportunities to benefit from a wider range of subjects and experiences through the Curriculum for Excellence.

In addition, the new campus will involve the wider community with a range of sporting and social facilities being made available for public use.

The Council will now enter into a long-term contract to agree terms for the maintenance and management of the new school.

Proposed designs for the renovation and modernisation of Marr College will also see the 1975 extension demolished and the removal of all remote classrooms. Refurbishments will also be carried out on the entrance and boundary security.

Agreements on how to deliver the modernisation programme and manage the school are well advanced and works are likely to begin in May 2015, to finish in March 2018, subject to funding conditions required by the Scottish Government being met.

Addressing the lack of sports facilities, the Council has also agreed the development of all-weather pitches for football/rugby, with an additional £300,000 being secured from the Sport Scotland for the provision of a further pitch.

Deciding where the pitches should be located was agreed after significant public consultation, particularly with the community and local community sports hub and a planning application has now been submitted, with work to begin in late 2014.

Councillor Margaret Toner, Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning said: “The new developments at Ayr Academy and Marr College mark a truly exciting moment for both schools.

“Once we have finalised the management and contractual details for both developments, work can begin to deliver two stunning and dynamic learning environments, offering first class facilities and outstanding opportunities for our pupils to succeed now and well into the future.”

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

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Scotland’s economy grows to record level

Pre-recession peak surpassed with record levels of employment

By: Murdoch MacDonald
Economics Correspondent

National Statistics published today by the Scottish Government and covering the first quarter of 2014 show that Scotland’s economy has now grown past its pre-recession peak to a new record level.

[Pictured: Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney (centre) during a visit today to Edinburgh-based website design and bespoke cloud software development company Lyles-Sutherland. On the left, Fraser Sutherland, Managing Director of Lyles-Sutherland, and on the right, Robin Lyles, Technical Director.]

Scotland’s GDP grew 1.0 per cent over the quarter, faster than the UK as a whole. Output in Scotland is now 0.4 per cent above its pre-recession level. The UK figure for quarter one was still 0.6 per cent below pre-recession levels.

Alongside these GDP figures, ONS labour market data published today and covering the period March-May 2014 show that employment in Scotland increased by 76,000 over the year to reach a record 2,587,000. 

Employment in Scotland has now increased over the quarter for 17 consecutive monthly releases, the longest ever unbroken run of increasing quarterly employment. Scotland’s employment rate (73.3 per cent) remains higher than for the UK as a whole (73.1 per cent).

The female employment level also reached a record high of 1,249,000. Scotland has a higher female employment rate (69.7 per cent vs 68.1 per cent) than the UK as a whole.

The size of the (16+) labour force increased by 25,000 over the quarter, indicating an increasing number of people entering the jobs market to look for work. Whilst the employment level increased by 12,000, this also explains in part the increase in unemployment over the quarter of 13,000. 

Overall, the unemployment rate has fallen by 0.6 percentage points over the year and by 1.0 percentage points over the last 2 years. In addition the claimant count figures for June 2014 fell by 4,000 to under 100,000 for the first time since 2008, indicating continued improvement in labour markets.

Across the EU, the average economic activity rate (15-64) was 72.1 per cent in Jan-Mar 2014. Today’s ONS data for Scotland show that the economic activity rate (16-64) in Scotland is now 78.8 per cent.

[To view video, click on image above.]

Responding to the latest labour market and GDP figures Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “Today’s figures mark an important stage in our recovery. 

“These positive output figures show that Scotland’s economy continues to go from strength to strength with growth of 1.0 per cent over the quarter and 2.6 per cent over the year – the fastest annual growth in over three years. 

“Nearly six years on from the start of the financial crisis, our economy is now larger than before the downturn. Output in Scotland is at record levels and we have exceeded our pre-recession peak at least one quarter ahead of the UK. 

“Over the last quarter the improvement in our economy has been broad-based with welcome signs of growth in manufacturing which was up 3.4 per cent and services which account for over 70 per cent of our economy up 0.9 per cent. 

“Today’s output figures are supported by new labour market data which show employment has reached a new record in Scotland with our economic activity rate also hitting a record high. 

“As the economy recovers more people are moving from inactivity into the labour market to look for employment. With this boost to economic activity it is not surprising that both employment and unemployment have risen over the quarter – albeit unemployment is still down over the year. 

“These figures support the emerging body of evidence which all point to the recovery in Scotland continuing to gather momentum. 

“Monday’s Bank of Scotland’s PMI survey indicated that private sector activity in Scotland expanded for the 21st consecutive month in June whilst the Fraser of Allander, ITEM Club and PWC have all revised up their forecasts for growth this year. 

“There can be no doubt that Scotland has the economic potential to be an independent country. With the full powers of independence we could do more to get people into work, ensure everyone in Scotland is able to benefit from our national wealth and give employers access to the skills they need to grow their business strengthening our economy and creating jobs.”

Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women's Employment Angela Constance said: “While today’s figures show growth in Scotland’s economy, our ambition is to do better than to simply return to pre-recession levels of economic performance.

“It is encouraging that female employment continues to increase markedly with a higher employment rate than the rest of the UK.

"Although we continue to do better than the UK in terms of employment rates amongst young people and 90 per cent of school leavers are in positive destinations, our youth unemployment rate remains too high. 

“This is why we support the principle outlined in the report last month by the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, that links between schools, colleges and employers can be strengthened, to be more aligned to student and business needs.”

Posted on behalf of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.