At yesterday’s full council meeting (Thursday 26th June) members agreed to submit a funding bid to the sixth round of Historic Scotland’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) for Campbeltown town centre.
The CARS programme provides grant funding to tackle property issues in the historic core of towns, bringing old buildings back in to use and repairing others for the benefit of the community and ensuring that town centres are attractive and vibrant places where people want to live, work and visit.
Argyll and Bute Council recognises the need to support the regeneration of Campbeltown, and is committed to developing this key coastal town, with this bid forming a significant part of those long term ambitions.
If successful, the council will use this funding to build on the great work that has gone on in Campbeltown in recent years through an earlier CARS programme and the current Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), which has improved the character and appearance of the town centre and made a tangible difference to local businesses and employment opportunities in the area. The works have also improved the visitor experience in the town which has benefitted tourism based businesses.
Local construction and supply companies have been involved in all aspects of the work, with many contractors receiving traditional skills training through the THI training programme.
A number of new town centre businesses have opened including a beauty salon, a hair salon, an IT store and several restaurants.
The THI is nearing completion, with work set to begin this summer on the final two priority buildings – the town hall and the tenement at the corner of Cross Street and Main Street (2 Cross St/50-52 Main St). This will see these buildings, like many other in the town, fully repaired and renovated and brought back in to sustainable use.
A hallmark of Campbeltown’s town centre regeneration has been the community engagement and partnership working approach. For each element of the project the council formed steering groups involving council officers; community groups; local councillors; private sector business partners; project managers and other public organisations, as well as holding regular public consultations.
The council’s project team has worked hard to involve local people in the process – helping them secure grants for their own properties and keeping them informed of the progress of work on the priority buildings. A number of parallel projects have also been delivered including historic walking tours, building maintenance events and the promotion of joint working between tenement owners.
Should the CARS bid be successful, with match funding left over from Campbeltown’s existing regeneration budget and a contribution from the council’s housing budget, the project team would have over £1million to invest.
Using the community engagement model that has worked so well to date, the team would look to identify some priority buildings that require work to safeguard the future of existing businesses and homes as well as helping private owners secure grants for a variety of works, from shopfront renovation to the repair of original timber sash and case windows.
Following yesterday’s decision, the council will now undertake detailed preparatory work ahead of submission of the bid by the end of August, with a decision from Historic Scotland set for December.
The council considers a CARS bid for Campbeltown to be a strong fit with the Historic Scotland assessment criteria and there is a clear need for more work in the town centre, given the condition of certain properties, the number of listed buildings and buildings at risk and the threat to the future of many businesses if repairs are not carried out.
This fund is highly competitive, with bids totalling £27m submitted to the previous round, which had a budget of £10m, and, as such, success is not guaranteed.
More details of the funding bid will follow.