The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

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.”

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