Dunoon’s Queen’s Hall redevelopment on a solid footing

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Published Date: 

4 Feb 2015 - 10:31

Argyll and Bute Council’s plans to regenerate Dunoon’s waterfront progressing well

People in Dunoon are set to see big changes in the coming year. With work set to start on the wooden pier in the summer there was further good news yesterday (Tuesday 3rd February) as local elected members were updated on the progress of the Queen’s Hall project.

At a meeting of the Bute and Cowal Area Committee in Dunoon’s Castle House councillors agreed to an updated delivery model which will achieve best value for the public purse, including retaining any funds from the sale of the current Dunoon Library for use as part of this project, and giving the delivery team the go-ahead to secure a contractor to deliver these vital regeneration works.

The project originally had a budget of just over £8.1million, which was increased in June 2014 to just under £8.9 million to accommodate a more aspirational design, including a health and fitness centre, a major road realignment and public realm improvements around the building. In developing the final proposals the design team re-scoped the finances through a value engineering exercise, making some savings in the construction and property acquisition elements but seeking an increase in the allowances for inflation and risk to address market pressures.

In total the council is now allowing up to £9.5million to deliver the project although it expects to secure some external funding from sources that have become available because of the more aspirational design.

Leader of the council, Dunoon-based Councillor Dick Walsh, said: ‘’This is good news for the project and shows that we are building in the necessary buffers so we can move forward with it and revolutionise Dunoon’s waterfront.

‘’The more aspirational design comes directly from public consultation – people wanted an improved public space to sit and for events. This is all part of the wider concept for Dunoon, to improve the gateway, making it a more attractive place for both residents and visitors.

‘’The new health and fitness facility which we included in the updated design last year opens up the opportunity for sportscotland funding which wasn’t available to us before, and with the potential sale of the library we don’t expect the council’s capital budget contribution of £8.86million to increase. With a new first-class fitness centre we’ll be able to build on the growing user numbers for the fitness classes currently offered at the hall as well as introducing new services and offering people more choice for their exercise sessions. We’ll also be able to include community programmes and out-patient referrals through our partners in NHS Highland as well as programmes of play for our pre-school kids.

‘’With careful management we’re confident of coming in within budget.

‘’The team will now be progressing with the procurement process with a view to the main works starting on site at the end of the year, although this depends on the acquisition of one property on Argyll Street, for which we are seeking the necessary compulsory purchase powers from the Scottish Government.

‘’Our sole focus as a council is on creating the right conditions for new job opportunities; by regenerating Dunoon’s waterfront we’ll be doing just that.’’

The renovated Queen’s Hall will have a new, improved public entrance and street frontage off Argyll Street as well as an upgraded main hall, a soft play area on the second floor and a new fitness and training suite.

The public library will sit alongside new facilities earmarked for Skills Development Scotland on the first floor, with Visit Scotland relocating from their current building on Alexandra Parade to share the ground floor reception area with the hall’s facilities team.

Around the building the old marshalling area at the wooden pier, the Skills Development Scotland building and the mini-roundabout at the bottom of Argyll Street are being replaced.

Taking their place will be a new, improved road system which is aimed at giving a higher priority to cyclists and pedestrians accessing both the main shopping area of the town and the Queen’s Hall itself, as well as improving access for motorists. This fits in with the project to upgrade Dunoon’s esplanade, which is set to get underway soon.

There will also be a public events space, with new paving and soft landscaping including trees and shrubs and providing opportunities for visitors and residents alike to take the time and enjoy the wonderful views out across the Clyde.

These wide ranging improvements, coupled with the pier project, will make the waterfront an attractive, vibrant and contemporary area for both residents and visitors to enjoy, creating a welcoming marine gateway to Dunoon.