£6m boost to restore East Ayrshire's coalfield communities

By Reevel Alderson
BBC Scotland's social affairs correspondent

  • Published
Dunstonhill siteImage source, Coalfields Community Trust
Image caption,
Dunstonhill opencast pit was one of a number of derelict mining sites scarring the landscape of former coalfield communities

Communities devastated by the collapse of coal mining have been given a multi-million pound boost to restore the local landscape.

The grants for East Ayrshire total more than £6m.

The money will be used to improve the cultural, natural and industrial heritage of the area.

Schemes include peatland restoration and reinstatement of hedgerows, as well as an oral history project and a musical celebration of coalfield life.

East Ayrshire's coalfield communities, in common with others around the country, are still coming to terms with the way in which the ending of the industry left them scarred and economically depressed.

Grants of £2.2m from the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP) and the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) will be added to a further £4m already allocated for landscape and heritage regeneration projects.

Image source, East Ayrshire Council
Image caption,
Restoration work is already complete at Dunstonhill near Cumnock

Caroline Clark, Scotland director of NLH, said the money would finance 22 community-led projects to significantly improve the cultural, natural and industrial heritage of the area.

She said: "It will help communities across a wide area reconnect with the heritage on their doorstep, strengthening their sense of pride and inspiring stewardship of the land around them.

"The industrial history of East Ayrshire means that people often don't recognise that the area is rich in both built and natural heritage."

The projects follow earlier work which has included the restoration of old colliery and opencast sites.

Image source, Getty Images

The closure of the Dunstonhill opencast pit near Cumnock left the 200-acre site dangerous as the quarry voids filled with water and left significant hazards to neighbouring communities and the local environment.

It has now been completely landscaped and the land returned to a local farmer.

Councillor Jim Roberts, responsible for economy and infrastructure at East Ayrshire Council, said the new tranche of money would provide an opportunity to revitalise life in local communities and reconnect them with their own distinctive landscape.

He said communities could tap into their history, improving knowledge of the present and helping inspire aspirations for the future.

One of the projects set to benefit is the continued redevelopment of Lugar Parish Church to enable it to become more relevant to the local community.

Its minister, Rev John Patterson, said this would involve creating a cafe, disabled toilets, disabled access and heritage information centre within the church building.

He said the work would ensure the building would be "a continuing gift to Lugar that keeps giving as an asset to the whole community."