Kilmarnock town centre regeneration scoops major award
A £43m project to revitalise a Scottish town badly hit by the economic recession has won a prestigious award in a ceremony on Thursday.
Judges in the annual SURF awards said they were impressed with the regeneration of Kilmarnock town centre.
The awards, presented by Social Justice Secretary, Alex Neil, are for regeneration initiatives.
They ranged from small community-based schemes to multi-million pound town centre developments.
The judges said: "East Ayrshire council's holistic urban development plan has created a vibrant town centre for Kilmarnock with restored historic buildings and positive developments in retail, culture, education, housing and tourism."
Among the improvements the local authority has made was the renovation of the Palace Theatre and investment in the repair and refurbishment of properties in Bank Street, a mediaeval thoroughfare in the centre of the town.
It has also relocated council offices in formerly derelict buildings such as the Johnnie Walker whisky bond and the Opera House.
Councillor Jim Buchanan, East Ayrshire's cabinet member for economy said: "It's important we keep the retailers in the town, and try to attract new retailers.
"That's why we moved out council staff into the town centre, into refurbished buildings where they can spend their lunchtime pounds in the town and help the retailers."
Kilmarnock railway station has also undergone regeneration with seven rooms, unoccupied for around 40 years now home to community enterprises including a book shop, café and electric bike hire.
Richard Carr, chairman of the Kilmarnock Station Railway Heritage Trust, said it has brought life back to a building in the centre of the town.
"It's all part of the process of bringing regeneration back to Kilmarnock.
"Obviously it is an industrial town, seen better days. and there've been tough times in recent years.
"But the council have put a lot of effort in behind it, and we're supportive of what's happened and to make the station a focal point for the town as well."
The SURF awards, which have been presented since 1998, are designed to promote the most effective initiatives designed to tackle physical, social and economic challenges in disadvantaged communities throughout Scotland.
Andy Milne, chief executive of SURF - Scotland's independent regeneration network - said it was important town centres had new life breathed into them.
"Towns are still home to more than half of Scotland's population, but over recent decades they have suffered degeneration in a lot of different ways; Firms moving out, transport disconnections, changing employment patterns.
"Towns are the place of business of living, of meaning for the people around that whole area.
"So it's important that the centres work successfully, both as business centres, but also as places for people to gather and meet with each other and exchange ideas."
The other award winners announced at Glasgow's Radisson Hotel were:
- Barrhead, most improved small or medium town;
- Ullapool harbour infrastructure enhancement which includes a music, arts and exhibition space;
- Laurieston, Glasgow, an artist-led project which makes railway arches and an iconic church available for creative uses;
- Helmsdale community project to create four new family homes to help address depopulation;
- The Wheatley Group supporting 188 clients living in some of Scotland's most deprived areas into employment.