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Kilmarnock town centre

Kilmarnock is East Ayrshire's key commercial and industrial centre. It is central to the economic wellbeing of the area, making it a great place to live, work in and visit. As a key retail centre for Ayrshire it also has a strong focus on culture and entertainment. It enjoys a range of attractions with its historic core, pedestrianised town centre, a shopping hub  and popular public parks .

Kilmarnock  town centre's importance to the economy of the town and the wider East Ayrshire area dictates the need to focus on potential redevelopment opportunities and priorities for action in the regeneration of  the town.

The May 2016 ‘Agenda for Continued Action’ report included a number of projects designed to improve the town centre, building on the views expressed by stakeholders at various events. The action plan recognised the need for further studies to be undertaken to determine on how the regeneration of Kilmarnock town centre could be taken forward.

Alongside this, Celebrate Kilmarnock 2015 – 2020 Community Action Plan identified, through extensive community engagement, a wide range of aspirations and ideas which helped provide a palette for the different options and detail of these studies.

Kilmarnock town centre environmental improvements study

This study was commissioned to identify and examine opportunities for physical change or environmental improvements within defined areas of the town centre, to support existing uses, or to encourage expansion of existing uses  into new areas of the town centre.

Four areas were originally identified for examination:

  • John Finnie Street North
  • John Finnie Street South (including Bank Street and Nelson Street)
  • Sandbed Street
  • The Foregate

These were supplemented by three additional areas – Strand Street, The Cross and King Street.

The report supports the Council’s programme to revitalise high quality heritage buildings like the newly restored Ingram Enterprise Centre in King Street and looks for further improvements in the appearance of the town including upgrading shop fronts and filling vacant units. It also promotes opening up access to the river which would involve the acquisition and demolition of some of the privately owned buildings on King Street.

Artists’ studio space

A Creative Space study was commissioned and completed by consultants  to assess demand for new workshop spaces for creative and cultural activity  for both professional and community use. The study included those involved in a wide range of creative activity including advertising, architecture, crafts and antiques, music, performing arts, photography, film and video, radio, writing and publishing and cultural education.

The study was commissioned at the same time as the Kilmarnock Academy Legacy Project between the Council and Centrestage Communities Ltd. It provides a useful context to that project while providing much needed information and analysis as to the strength of the creative sector in East Ayrshire and Kilmarnock.

The study concluded that there was demand and suggested that there would be merit in exploring specific spaces for both cultural and creative industry use near the centre of town.

Cultural quarter

This study assessed the potential for complimentary development within the ‘cultural quarter’ of Kilmarnock between the Palace Theatre and the Dick Institute and to improve its connection with the town centre.

Key recommendations included how the Dick Institute could develop in future using the adjacent car parking and open space, its relationship with Loanhead Primary School and the former Kilmarnock Academy buildings and how the quarter as a whole could be better connected to the town centre.

Since the report was commissioned, Centrestage Communities have developed ambitious plans for the Kilmarnock Academy Buildings and this will be factored in to any future development of that area.

Scotland's Towns Partnership conference bus tour 

Over the years Kilmarnock's townscape has undergone many changes, with the focus of the town shifting away from heavy industry and manufacturing and turning its challenges into something positive - blending recreation, business, culture and wellbeing facilities throughout the town.

The town boasts a great variety of attractions with its historic core, pedestrianised town centre, diverse businesses and many popular public parks and green spaces.  Most importantly, Kilmarnock’s people have proved their resilience and ability to change and they will continue to be at the towns heart as it moves forward.

Investment from a range of local and national partners has regenerated many parts of the town and historic buildings, making them fit for modern purposes. Community leadership has been and will continue to be key and has improved a number of assets in the town centre including shop fronts and transforming a derelict building into a public realm space for everyone to enjoy.

Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) held their annual conference in-person for the first time since the pandemic in November and chose Centrestage, Kilmarnock as the venue. We took delegates on a bus tour around Kilmarnock to highlight the history, developments and transformations the town has went through over the years.

Bus tour booklet

You can find some examples of Kilmarnock’s journey; from a proud past, through present challenges and successes to future ambitions that will help ensure a vibrant, safe and sustainable town, in our STP conference bus tour booklet (PDF 10.87MB).

Next steps

These reports and a range of other potential developments were considered at the council Cabinet Meeting of the 22 August 2018 from which it was proposed that the Council works with and through Celebrate Kilmarnock to prepare an updated Kilmarnock Town Centre Strategy and Action Plan, taking into account the work already done by the community and others. The aim is to support the organisation to lead engagement on the development of a strategy using their existing networks and to extend that reach to involve other community and business organisations with an interest in the town centre. The outcomes from the engagement exercises will be brought together into a detailed strategy document and presented as a joint report to Cabinet for approval. 

Background documents

Download the following documents for more information:

Contact Information

Planning and Building Standards
Opera House
8 John Finnie Street
Telephone: 01563 576790