Town centre improvement funding approved in Aberdeenshire and the Highlands

The first grants from a multi-million pound fund for town centre improvement projects in Aberdeenshire and the Highlands have been approved.

The Scottish Government announced a £50 million Town Centre Fund in December to drive local economic activity and to stimulate and support economic improvements.

Aberdeenshire Council’s share is £3.28m and its infrastructure services committee (ISC) was given details of successful funding bids to date.

Cash from the fund has to be legally committed by March 2020, so given the time constraint, consultation with councillors, business associations, community groups and services within Aberdeenshire Council identified several projects ready to be delivered.

The criteria set for the fund included the deliverability of the project, sustainability and transformation to the key town centres of Aberdeenshire. 

A specially constituted panel considered projects which would stimulate and support a wide range of investments, encouraging town centres to diversify and flourish.

At its first meeting last week, the panel granted funding to ten projects worth £2.7m, the majority worked up by groups independent of the council.

  • Banchory Museum, Banchory   

Transformation and re-design of existing library and museum building to a multi-purpose cultural and visitor centre   

Aberdeenshire Council (Live life Aberdeenshire) £478,000

  • Bridge Street, Banff 

Public Realm Improvement Scheme linking up strategic regeneration projects and key areas of the town. 

Aberdeenshire Council (Delivery Team) £709,030

  • The Hive, The Square, Huntly  

Huntly and District Development Trust have purchased the former RBS building in Huntly square and are looking to redevelop it into a co-working shared space. The Hive will provide high quality, affordable, environmentally sound and attractive workspace which can be rented on a flexible basis. It will also offer meeting space with technology for conference meetings and workshops and will include support services aimed at Business Development, growth and networking. 

Huntly and District Development Trust £117,263

  • John Trail Hotel Project, Fraserburgh 

The proposed project will see the derlecit building at 3-13 Mid Street, Fraserburgh fully restored and brought back into productive use as a small hotel.  
NESPT 476,100

  • 30, The Square, Huntly 

Huntly and District Development Trust has plans to purchase and re-develop this substantial prominent three-storey town centre building into a mixed use space. On completion, Number 30 will house retail and test trading spaces of varying flexible sizes, a Huntly Heritage Centre, café, visitor information centre, exhibition space, a cinema/lecture theatre, community events space and some office accommodation. 

Huntly and District Development Trust with partners £225,000

  • Peterhead CCTV 

CCTV, circulated throughout the defined BID area of Peterhead town centre, linking to the police station.  

Rediscover Peterhead £79,000

  • Huntly Heart, Huntly 

Deveron Projects intend to purchase the former Square Deal in Huntly Square (application pending approval from the Scottish Land Fund). The upstairs will be converted into accommodation and artists residence and the ground floors will become the ‘living room of the town’, incorporating various projects and events including the town is the garden project and a proposed heritage bakery project, creating a welcoming space for visitors and residents alike.  

Deveron Projects £227,992

  • Drummers Corner, Peterhead 

This Public Realm enhancement project aims to install a replacement performance drum and an upgrade to seating and lighting adding new artwork to the area to improve aesthetics. 

Aberdeenshire Council  £145,000

  • Car Parking contactless infrastructure  

To upgrade all town centre car parking infrastructure to a contactless system. Reduced parking costs for medium length stays along with the contactless payments will make payments easier and quicker, making parking more accessible and increasing town centre dwell times. 

Aberdeenshire Council £66,660

  • Grow Banff @ the Vinery, Banff 

The application to the SG TC Fund is for the first phase of the Grow Banff @ The Vinery project to re-develop the Vinery site into a flagship site within Banff for community-led regeneration which will improve health and wellbeing, increase skills, provide new opportunities for enterprise and encourage tourism. 

Aberdeenshire Council £242,832

The panel will meet to decide the second round of funding awards in June, and with the fund over-subscribed with eligible projects competition will be high.

ISC chair Peter Argyle said: “This money is intended to drive local economic activity, to bring transformational change for towns and their surrounding communities by creating growth which supports them to become more vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible places.

“The first round of applications has seen funding granted to a diverse range of projects that will bring transformational change to our key town centres throughout Aberdeenshire.”

Committee vice chair, John Cox, said: “The principle aim of this fund is to create footfall through local improvements and partnerships which encourage town centres to become more vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible places for their communities.

“The council’s regeneration work in the four northern towns has identified projects to generate significant change and this new fund will allow some of those projects to be delivered faster, leveraging in even greater funding. The fund has also been able to support other key towns within Aberdeenshire.”

Meanwhile members of The Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee have welcomed £2,965,000 of new funding to stimulate economic investments in Highland town centres – the 5th highest allocation in Scotland.

Chair of the environment, development and infrastructure committee, Cllr Allan Henderson, said: “The Town Centre Fund will enable us to invest in local improvements and help town centres to become more diverse, successful and sustainable. This could include repurposing buildings and improving access and infrastructure. What we have is an opportunity to build on work already done to develop and implement town centre action plans that will increase footfall through local improvements and partnerships.”

In line with the council’s commitment to localism and to bring decision-making closer to communities local area committees will take on the role of identifying and recommending which projects receive funding.

Based on funding distribution methodology used by The Scottish Government but amended to give each area committee a base allocation and to reflect the importance that Thurso and Wick make to the Caithness community, indicative area allocations have been identified as follows:

  • Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee - £265,289
  • Caithness Committee - £265,290
  • City of Inverness Area Committee - £596,901
  • Isle of Skye and Rasaay Committee - £198,967
  • Lochaber Committee - £198,967
  • Nairnshire Committee - £198,967
  • Ross and Cromarty Committee - £928,513
  • Sutherland Committee - £198,967

Cllr Henderson added: “The money allocated to us has to be spent within the next 12 months. I would like to see this support for investing in our town centres continue. If it does we will be able to forward plan and look in detail at which projects can best re-purpose our town centres to help them become more diverse, successful and sustainable.”

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