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, and visit. The town is also the cultural and entertainment focus and is a key retail centre. The town centre boasts a range of attractions with its attractive historic core, pedestrianised town centre, a shopping hub and well-maintained public parks .
Kilmarnock town centre's importance to the economic wellbeing of the town and the wider East Ayrshire area dictates the need for an effective and practical framework 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, the community action plan “Celebrate Kilmarnock 2015 – 2020” 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 was commissioned and identify and examine opportunities for physical change or environmental improvements within defined areas of the town centre, to support existing uses or to encourage existing uses to expand 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 is supportive of 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. There is also support for opening up access to the river which would involve the acquisition and demolition of some of the buildings on King Street which are privately owned.
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.
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.
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.
Download the following documents for more information: