People in Oban can look forward to vital regeneration initiatives moving on, with local councillors having made three important recommendations at today’s (Wednesday 15th April) meeting in the Corran Halls.
The Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee recommended that the council authorises around half a million pounds of funding to begin the North Pier expansion, agrees a financial package which will see the second phase of public realm improvements going ahead later this year and approves the continued development of the maritime quarter.
North Pier expansion
The north pier extension is one of nine projects being taken forward as part of the Lorn Arc regeneration programme and could see real economic benefits for local businesses, with an expanded pier offering more harbour uses, increased berthing and more space for parking and other developments.
Local members have recommended that just over half a million pounds be allocated to cover the start-up costs of the project, which will primarily pay for a specialist marine engineering company to carry out the initial work which will inform a detailed project proposal on just what the pier extension will involve.
This preparatory phase involves survey and design work, followed by a consultation on a number of design proposals, the development of a finalised design, a planning application and economic and environmental impact assessments.
Further details of this process will be made available once the council has retained the services of a suitable company. The finalised proposal is set to be ready by the end of the year and will then be considered by councillors.
The first phase of public realm improvements, along Stafford Street, is going well, with the building work set to be completed in time for the busy summer season. People are already seeing the benefits of the high quality materials and construction methods, with the terraced seating space and the flexible public area coming together well.
Following today’s recommendation the financial package should be in place to allow the council to progress the second phase of these much needed improvements, with £3million set to be spent on enhancements to Station Square, George Street and Queen’s Park Place between September 2015 and May 2016.
The design for Station Square provides a flexible space for events; a widened seaside footway; an improved shelter for bus passengers; flexible seating; ornamental planting; LED lighting similar to Stafford Street; like-for-like provision for taxis and a new plinth for the clock tower.
George Street and Queen’s Park Place will see bespoke seating areas, including planting and decorative lighting; an improved footway on the seafront; refurbished railings and sea wall and replacement lighting.
The project has been phased this way to ensure there is no disruption to local businesses during the summer season. Hopefully a contractor will be in place soon and the council will then be in a position to give more details of exactly how these improvements will be delivered.
Phase One – visitor facility
There are four complementary phases to this element of Argyll and Bute Council’s economic development drive in Oban, with the first phase, a new facility on the north pier on the way to delivery.
The North Pier Maritime Visitor Facility will enclose a circular gathering space and be covered by a timber and glass canopy. The new facility will include a pier office; additional public toilets and showers; secure locker facilities; storage and laundry; a waiting area for coach parties and cruise ship passengers and an exciting covered event space.
It is hoped that planning permission for an amended design will be granted soon and the project can start in the autumn.
To accompany this project the council will now be progressing interim step ashore solutions for 2015 and 2016 and possibly a longer-term, fully integrated step ashore and transit berthing facility as part of the north pier expansion.
Phase Two – short term step ashore solution
Improvements will be made to the existing Oban Times slip which will double its capacity and allow a ‘meet and greet’ facility to be set-up on the pier. The work involves removing an existing fence and re-siting it, which does not require a great deal of time, work or cost. This will improve the existing slip somewhat in time for the Queen Mary and The World cruise ship passengers arriving this summer
Phase Three – medium term step ashore solution
In the medium-term, members agreed to recommend that up to £45,000 be spent on design for work for a fixed piled landing platform A specialist company will be hired to carry out the initial design and scoping work, as well as moving forward with the complicated marine licence process, with detailed designs and costs set to be considered by the councillors in the autumn.
Members will then consider the costs and, if suitable, the council will proceed with an open tender process for the construction phase.
This platform would comprise two pontoons and a bridge attaching it to the pier. Although timescales are tight, the council will be making every effort to ensure the facility is in place for summer 2016
Phase Four – longer term step ashore and transit berthing solution
In the long-term, the council is aware that a fully integrated step ashore and transit berthing facility could be of benefit to the local economy, especially now that funds have been approved for the North Pier expansion. The viability of such a facility will now be explored as part of the North Pier Expansion.
It is likely that the integrated transit marina will be progressed with the council tendering for a commercial operator to run it or for the council to run it as a commercial asset.
Subject to any proposals being proved financially viable it is expected that the marina could be in place in two to three years.
Argyll and Bute Council’s Executive Director for Development and Infrastructure, Pippa Milne, welcomed the news: ‘’I’m encouraged to see these projects progressing; these are exciting times for people in Oban with several big council initiatives gathering momentum. Our focus is on delivering improvements which benefit the whole community and I am confident that each of the projects complement each other, giving us a finished product which is greater than the sum of its parts.
‘’An extended North Pier opens up a range of possibilities which will now be explored as we go through the design phase. It makes sense for the development of a transit berthing facility to be considered as part of this project – providing best value for the public purse. Having step ashore solutions in place for this summer and next will also allow us to gauge the level of interest and will help inform any longer term proposals.
‘’I’ve been pleased to see the good work in Stafford Street – there’s a lovely area developing for people to sit and enjoy a view of the bay – and I think people in Oban will now have a real flavour of what the second element of the public realm work will involve. We’ve tried to schedule it in a sensible way, minimising the disruption to local businesses.
‘’The council is focused on creating the right environment for private sector growth and I am confident that these projects will do just that, making Oban an even more attractive place and building on its already strong economy.’’