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CALL FOR RAIL INDUSTRY TO STUMP UP THEIR SHARE FOR LOCKERBIE RAILWAY STATION CAR PARK EXTENSION

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has repeated his call for Transport Scotland, Network Rail and the privatised rail firms to stump up their share of funding to deliver extra car parking for Lockerbie Railway Station.

The MSP recently launched a petition calling for improved parking and better rail services from Lockerbie and next week members of South West of Scotland Transport Partnership (SWESTRANS) will be asked to consider a range of options for increasing car parking at the station.

Land around Sydney Place near the station has been earmarked as the preferred location for a badly needed overflow car park, which would be the third phase of a plan to improve parking at the station which is now used by over 200,000 passengers a year. Phase Two would see the existing car park next to the north bound track enhanced to create additional spaces at a cost of just over £505,000.

So far funding of £300,000 was agreed by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee last month towards the improvements but Colin Smyth believes that SWESTRANs should make a bid to Transport Scotland and Network Rail for funding and urge the rail companies such as Scotrail who own the station and Virgin Rail and Transpennine Express who run services through the station to pay their fair share.

Colin Smyth said, “More and more people use Lockerbie station every day and the demand for car parking spaces is growing all the time. Whilst there is a need to look at how we can improve bus services to the station, increased car parking is also needed. It is encouraging that once again the council has put it hand in its pocket to contribute towards car parking at a railway station, but it shouldn’t be left to the hard pressed council tax payer to fully fund it. It is the privatised rail companies who benefit most from increased usage of the station, so they should stump up their fair share”.

“Transport Scotland and Network Rail also have funds for station improvements they have used  in other parts of Scotland, so they should contribute to improvements at Lockerbie station”.

“Over £500,000 for phase 2 and around £1.6m for phase 3 sounds like a huge sum, but that is likely to be over a lengthy period and if you divide it between the rail companies who use the station, Transport Scotland and Network Rail, with some support from the council, it is not an unreasonable funding request and would provide benefits both for local residents and rail passengers.”

Annandale North Councillor and new member of the SWESTRANS board, Adam Wilson has also backed calls for improved parking believing the current situation is unacceptable for local residents.

Adam Wilson said, “The growing demand for parking at the station is putting huge pressure on local residential areas much to the dismay of residents who have difficulty parking near their own home at busy periods.  Lockerbie residents are keen to see the car parking issue resolved as soon as possible. To do this, it is essential that funding from Government agencies and rail companies is made available to start and progress works. 

The importance of Lockerbie Train Station not only locally but to the whole region cannot be understated. That is why it is essential that options are agreed at the SWESTRANs Board meeting next week"

Stakeholders encouraged to take part in series of events on south of Scotland economy

Businesses, agencies, organisations and individuals in the south of Scotland are being invited to help influence an ambitious new approach to economic development.

As part of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, stakeholders can attend a series of special engagement events to help shape the economic future of the area and the new enterprise agency that is being created.

The free events, taking place until Thursday 7 June in a range of locations from Stranraer to Eyemouth, take the form of both breakfast and evening events, to make them as accessible as possible.

 The events are designed to allow a single conversation with stakeholders on what powers and focus they would like the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to have when it is established in 2020, the interim work programme of the partnership and also potential opportunities for the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, with responses shaping its development and influencing what the standalone agency will do. Feedback from the upcoming events will be fed into that consultation process.

Prof Russel Griggs, chair of the partnership, said: “This is an exciting time for the south of Scotland and it is a time when our collective voice, and indeed our individual voices, are being heard at the highest levels in both Scotland and across the UK.

“It is therefore vital that the partnership hears from our local businesses and other stakeholders to ensure that their views are being taken into account. These events will enable them to influence both the future development of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and the partnership’s work programme.”

The stakeholder events are being managed by the Southern Uplands Partnership on behalf of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership. Places can be booked at www.sup.org.uk/sosep.asp

Prof Griggs added: “The establishment of the partnership and the future development of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency will generate a renewed commitment that will bring investment, innovation and a fresh approach for the south of Scotland, shining a collective spotlight on the whole region for the first time.

 “What is quite clear from the engagement events that have taken place so far is that what everyone wants is an enterprise agency that is for the south, by the south, of the south and in the south.

“A recurring message has been that it must also reflect our needs in the south of Scotland, which may not be the same as those of other areas, and really sell the region, and not just as a tourism destination, but as somewhere for business and for people to live and work, of all ages.

“We have had discussions with almost 200 people so far and these have ranged from fishing to high tech industries, covering the huge diversity of our economy, including farming, land management, forestry, rural retail sectors, community businesses and communities themselves.

“We still have many more events to come, including in Peebles, Galashiels, Stranraer and Lockerbie in the next few weeks, and I’d continue to encourage anyone who wants to have their say on the future of economic development in the south of Scotland to make sure they come along to have their voice heard.”

CASE MADE TO BACK £250,000 PINNEYS ACTION GROUP PLAN

The case to set aside £250,000 of funding from the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) to help mitigate any job losses from Pinneys, was made to Scottish Government Minister Paul Wheelhouse last night (Wednesday 2 May)

Annandale South Councillor and Chair of the Annan Regeneration Steering Group, Sean Marshall, urged the Minister at a meeting in Annan Town Hall arranged to update stakeholders on the work of a Scottish Government and Council Action Group, to sanction the request for funding. Councillor Marshall believes the funds should be to used to establish an action team based in premises on Annan High Street to work to secure jobs in the Annan area.

The request came as a result of a motion from Sean Marshall at Monday’s meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Council. The request will initially go before members of the Economic Partnership at their meeting next week, although the final decision on how the partnership spends its £10m budget has to be made by Scottish Government Ministers.

Sean Marshall said, “My message to the Minister was very clear. We need a dedicated team in place in Annan urgently to look at ways in which new jobs can be created, either by expanding existing businesses or bringing new ones to the area. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to explore options for the future of the Pinneys site itself. However, the clock is ticking, so the work I proposed needs to start urgently and that team needs to be in place sooner rather than later”. 

The case for the £250,000 to be released will also be made by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth when he meets SOSEP’s Chairman Professor Russel Griggs tomorrow (Friday 4 May). Meanwhile Councillor Marshall, along with South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth, Annandale East and Eskdale Councillor Archie Dryburgh and Annandale North Councillor Adam Wilson met with representatives of Unite the Union earlier in the week at Pinneys and the message from the workforce was clear- we need action not just words.

Commenting on the discussions with the workforce representatives MSP Colin Smyth said “The workforce want to see real action, not just meetings and it was good to hear their backing for the move to secure funding and that’s why I’ll press the case with the new Economic Partnership. The 45-day consultation is proceeding at a pace and it is literally just a couple of weeks before Young’s will make their final decision on the future of the Pinneys site. Whilst everyone is working hard to try to convince Young’s to change their mind, the workforce representatives are realistic about the likelihood of this. They have also seen the various reports about potential buyers and the fact that even if a buyer is found, the number of jobs that could be retained may well be very significantly less than the current number. That makes the need to try to bring additional jobs into the area even more urgent.”

McAlpine welcomes extra funding for roads maintenance following extreme weather

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed over half a million pounds of extra funding for Dumfries and Galloway Council to cover the cost of roads maintenance following the extended wintry weather.

Scottish Government Finance Secretary Derek Mackay took the decision to allocate an additional £10 million for all 32 councils with the details of the distribution to be agreed with COSLA.  

Ms McAlpine commented:

“I welcome the Finance Secretary’s announcement that Dumfries and Galloway Council is to receive over £500’000 to support road repairs and maintenance – a significant proportion of the £10 million to be split between the 32 local authority areas.

“Scotland experienced unprecedented levels of extreme weather in recent months, culminating in the issuing of our first-ever Red Alert for snow by the Met Office in late February.

“The severe weather led to local authorities incurring unexpected additional costs to their maintenance budgets, and simultaneously caused more damage to Scotland’s road network.

“By assisting councils to keep our road networks safe and efficient, the Scottish Government is not only improving conditions for road users, by extending the life span of that network – benefiting the wider economy.

Councillors agree support for Annan

Agreement for a special funding pot for to help deliver local solutions following the Pinneys closure announcement was agreed today.  At the meeting of Full Council (Monday 30 April) Councillors agreed to seek £250,000 from the South of Scotland Enterprise Partnership (SOSEP) to mitigate the potential negative impact of the potential job losses at Pinneys.

The Council have been working with the Scottish Government following the closure announcement made by Young’s.  Recognising the scale and seriousness of the problem for the staff and the community of Annan, the council have responded through prompt, focussed action. An action plan has been established and work is progressing on taking this forward.

A motion by Councillor Marshall was put forward and agreed unanimously by Councillors, who said that there is an immediate need for a focussed team resource to work quickly to secure jobs (both new and existing), new opportunities, ensure the ongoing sustainability and resilience for Annan and the wider DG12 area.

Based on a similar situation in Hawick where both the Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government provided significant support towards a Hawick Action Plan, a similar approach was discussed yesterday as a way forward to address the situation.  There are a range of existing projects (including the Chapelcross Development and the Annan Regeneration Plan) along with the action plan for Pinneys which will identify key projects and enable business cases to be completed to seek further funding as well as enable positive short-term interventions.

Sean Marshall, Chair of Annan Regeneration Steering Group, said “It is imperative that we secure £250K from SOSEP so that we can proceed immediately with developing an action plan for Annan and the surrounding DG12 area that stretches as far as Eastriggs.  The Action Plan Team should be based in Annan in High Street premises  and will identify new and existing projects that are fully costed to secure jobs and new economic opportunities within Annan.  Whilst everyone is working towards securing the best outcome for the Pinneys workforce, the worst case scenario could see the loss of between 500 and 700 jobs by the end of 2018.  Annan is currently an economic ticking timebomb and we need to act quickly to stop Annan and the surrounding area turning into an economic wasteland.”

Henry McClelland, who seconded the Motion, said “the announcement of the Young’s decision to close the Annan Pinney’s factory is devastating to many of the implications will reach across DG12 and beyond.

“The Ministerial Action Group was formed immediately and quickly identified four work streams.  The fourth stream, mitigating the impact on the wider economy is a piece of work that is needed now.

“This funding of £250,000 from SOSEP to resource a dedicated team to work to develop an action plan for the Annan area.  This action plan will inform businesses and develop business cases to seek further investment for key identified projects including expansion opportunities.”