It was party time at Galston’s Portland Centre, the crowning glory of East Ayrshire Council, Galston Community Development Trust, and Historic Environment Scotland’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme projects, with cake cutting and celebrations for all those involved in the process, which has seen £2m invested in restoring the town centre’s important historic buildings. With 7 major building grants awarded, 8 new businesses set up, a bridge upgraded and 2 buildings now removed from the Buildings at Risk Register, it has been a major boost to the local community, bringing 743Sqm of vacant floor space back into use and creating 13 new jobs in the process.
The Council’s Heritage Projects Co-ordinator, Colin McKee cut a commemorative cake and welcomed guests who included building owners, business representatives, contractors, Willie Coffey MSP and representatives of Historic Environment Scotland (HES). With a packed programme of presentations from owners, HES and David Richmond of the Galston Community Development Trust, the whole story of the redevelopment was revealed. A popular highlight was a magical interlude from Drew Ramsay, the talented young winner of Valley’s Got Talent.
Willie Coffey said: “It’s stunning to see what’s been achieved through partnership working in a relatively short space of time. Galston had been needing this kind of work for a long time. There’s always a disruptive element during the construction, but this is the prize that we have in front of us so far and I’m looking forward to seeing the plans for what’s to come.”
Lynne Easton, CARS project Officer, East Ayrshire Council said: “Five years ago, against a backdrop of economic decline from which we have still not really recovered, Galston CARS was launched in a bid to promote economic regeneration through the conservation and restoration of the town’s historic fabric. Over the duration of the scheme, the town has continued to face difficult challenges – the closure of VE Energy and Balmoral Knitwear along with the demolition of the town centre Co-Op.
“No one could have anticipated just how difficult it was going to be to give away hundreds of thousands of pounds of grant funding but it was a real challenge!
“Multiple ownership, tenancy agreements, liquidations, absentee landlords, poor weather and material shortages and bats!! all conspired to undermine the success of the scheme over its course.
“Eventually, around three years into the five year period, with the determination of some very committed grantees, projects began to come to realisation with work on site and some dramatic results which in turn motivated others to take up the challenge.
“The newly formed Galston Community Development Trust took up the massive challenge of purchasing The Portland and then set about obtaining the necessary funding required to transform it from a vacant and derelict public house to a thriving community hub. This building is a shining example of what can be achieved by empowered communities and exemplifies the aims of CARS. It will hopefully continue over time to contribute to further physical and economic regeneration in Galston.”
Leo Reilly, Managing Director of CGC, praised the partnership between the public, East Ayrshire Council and Historic Scotland as “teamwork which has literally breathed new life into Galston.”
Leo said: “As one of the contractors involved in this inspirational project we feel privileged to be part of such a successful conservation effort. Galston is important to East Ayrshire and its residents deserve to live in a town whose rich heritage and historical appeal is protected and cherished. Well done to everyone involved in a brilliant project.”
Morag McConnell, whose property, McConnell Pharmacy at 4 Wallace Street was transformed by CARS grants said: “It has been a pleasure to have been involved with the CARS project. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in CARS in Galston, and in particular the local volunteers who formed the Galston Community Development Trust and all the different organisations involved in our project. There have been long delays in our restoration but we’re very grateful for the patience of all concerned and in particular our customers.
“Thankfully that teamwork and patience has all proven very worthwhile. We’re particularly pleased with our beautiful signage, done with gold leaf by Frank Carty from Newmilns, a true craftsman. And the icing on the cake is our traditional style mortar and pestle signs, made by Tony Morrell from Kirkoswald, inspired by the competition run with Loudoun Academy which produced the stunning design for the Buck’s Head. I can only thank all involved at East Ayrshire and wish another lucky community well as they move on with their regeneration plans.”
Councillor Jim Roberts, Cabinet Member for Skills and Economy, East Ayrshire Council: “Conservation Area Regeneration Schemes are clearly about so much more than just restoring worn out historic buildings. They provide new homes, workspaces and facilities and they bring jobs, vibrancy and all sorts of economic and social benefits to our town centres. Without the skills and diligence of companies such as CGC, the dedication and commitment of building owners, the funding, expertise and guidance of East Ayrshire Council’s regeneration team and HES, and the tenacity of the Galston Community Development Trust, none of these projects would be viable. Our schemes provide opportunities for builders employing well qualified, traditionally skilled craftspeople, jobs, business premises and homes for our communities and with their co-operation we can all look forward to a brighter future for towns such as Galston.”
The town is left with many further challenges, notably, the site at the Cross, the gap site on Bridge Street, and many more buildings that would benefit from sensitive restoration. Plans are now open for consultation and the community is now empowered to tackle these issues and build on the transformations that have already taken place.
2 priority projects
7 large grant
1 small grant
6 new shopfronts
8 new businesses
13 new jobs
2 buildings removed from Buildings at Risk Register
tonnes of indigenous slate, sandstone, sash and case windows and lime harl and pointing
PUBLIC REALM WORKS 76.4m2
743m2 total sqm of vacant floorspace brought into use
TOTAL PROJECT COSTS £1,484,017.13
HES CARS GRANTS £749,869.87 £750k
EAC CONTRIBUTION £531,346.88 £500k
OWNERS CONTRIBUTIONS £202,800.38 £200k
Education and training programmes:
Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme video from Historic Environment Scotland https://youtu.be/fDrO0zZ6Pw8