The New Year will herald the realisation of a new era in Kilmarnock’s regeneration journey thanks to a new Kilmarnock Strategic Vision agreed by East Ayrshire Council this week.
Across the UK, the focus and day-to-day needs of community, business, retail and leisure are changing, so the need for repurposing and creating new uses for buildings and land is greater than ever.
The Council has a strong track record of working with business and community to bring new life to local towns and prior to the pandemic, Kilmarnock was at the forefront of ambitious regeneration projects, all made possible thanks to community-led regeneration, working with people, business and community groups to consult, inspire and find practical solutions to tackle sites which are no longer fit for purpose or are ripe for life-changing improvements.
And it is this sense of place which is the driving force behind new plans, approved this week by East Ayrshire Council, which promise to transform key sites across Kilmarnock.
While many consultations, public meetings, and plans have been drawn up in the past few years, the pandemic and the rising cost of living crisis have had a knock on effect on behaviours, priorities, budgets and previous aspirations for the town.
This week's reports pull together all previous plans, marry them with Kilmarnock’s unique combination of innovative people, proud heritage and the experience of years of working with community and business, to put forward a new vision for regeneration for Kilmarnock.
The reports set out ambitious plans to tackle sites in need of attention including:
- Demolition of the multi-storey car park, which has passed its natural lifespan, and redevelopment of the site to create a civic space, electric vehicle charging points and a cycling hub;
- Stabilising of the building façade at 1 Strand Street/12 Dunlop Street to create an enclosed external business space;
- Next steps in the refurbishment of The Galleon Centre; and
- Establishment of a new Kilmarnock Strategic Group with representatives from Councillors and local stakeholder organisations.
As part of the discussion, Councillors voted in favour of removing the clock at the top of John Finnie Street, which has been blighted with maintenance issues for several years. The new Strategic Group will link with local stakeholders to determine future plans for the site for the remainder of its lease with Scotrail, which is due to expire in 2029.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, welcomed the plans saying: “As times, behaviours and priorities change, so too must the townscape around us, and it’s always a challenge to make best use of our space, with the budgets we have available, while still making sure it meets the needs of those who will use it.
“That’s why for some time we’ve focused on a community led approach to all redevelopment, making sure we consult and work in partnership with all those who use and love the town, and these proposals build on all that effort. The formation of the new Kilmarnock Strategic Group will consolidate this and help keep up the momentum for positive change.
“Taking a holistic approach, we’ll be able to make real improvements while tackling some real issues. Sadly the condition of the multi-storey car park, like many concrete buildings of its era, means we’re having to demolish it. But this gives us an opportunity to create a civic space, including EV charging points and a cycling hub. As with all these projects, we’ll determine the final design through a process of public engagement and consultation.
"This new public space, which will include public art and historical interpretation with designs developed from public consultation, will fit well with the plans for the 26km Infinity Loop cycle route and the Active Travel Hub’s activities, while making a tangible difference to our ambitions to cut car use and reach Net Zero carbon emission targets.
“At the same time the the creation of new parking spaces at Sturrock Street, Centrestage and Grange Street site will help us increase the number of car parking spaces at strategic points around our Cultural and Business Quarters.
“Bus travel will also get easier with the completion of Kilmarnock Bus Station redesign, including smart noticeboards, improved lighting, seating and CCTV and improved safety and accessibility for people with disabilities.
“With the pandemic and the economic downturn, many of our previous plans have been delayed. So we’re really pleased that we can finally start working on the long awaited Galleon project too – having consulted and listened to what users and the community want, we’re happy that as we move into the first phase of planning its refurbishment, we’ll be able to create a revamped facility which will be a well used hub for all to enjoy.
“Creating green spaces and outdoor amenities in towns is known to boost wellbeing and connect people, and we’ve already seen how popular the new St Marnock Square has proven. In the Spring this development will be moving into its final phase.
“We’re also adding a wee outdoor oasis right in the centre of town, with the stabilisation of the ancient façade on the corner of Strand Street and Dunlop Street. It’s great that we’re able to preserve part of one of the oldest buildings in the town while creating am inviting external space within its ancient walls for use by the businesses working within the Ingram Enterprise Centre, Johnnie Walker Bond and the Opera House.
“This is a great example of imaginative regeneration – buildings may no longer be needed for their original purpose, but nonetheless we can turn these sites into attractive features, so they can play a useful role in our future townscape.
“It’s this kind of joined up thinking which will help us deliver Community Wealth Building and meet Kilmarnock’s strategic priorities:
- Attract people into the town
- Support local business to thrive and grow
- Protect and improve health and wellbeing
- Improve accessibility in and around town
- Promote active travel and “green” the economy to meet NetZero targets
“With these plans we’re confident we can make great strides in achieving our Kilmarnock Vision for the benefit of everyone today and in the future.”
The Kilmarnock Vision sets out these long term outcomes:
- Kilmarnock has a stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy, where wealth is kept local, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to benefit from growth
- Kilmarnock is fairer, kinder and more connected and is free from poverty and inequality
- The people of Kilmarnock are well and well served in health, care and the promotion of equity
- Kilmarnock’s children and young people grow up loved, safe and respected so that they realise their full potential
- Kilmarnock’s carbon emissions have reduced and are on track to be net zero by 2030
- The Council meets the diverse needs of Kilmarnock in a financially sustainable way; the community has more control over decisions that affect their lives and more say in what we do and how we do it.
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- Read the Kilmarnock Strategic Vision report
- See the Council reports