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Councillors asked to approve boost to Town Centre Living

Three funding applications for investment in two town centre properties will be put before members for their approval next week.  Members of the Communities committee will be asked to approve funding for Dumfries High Street Limited and the St Bride’s Anglican Church when they meet on Thursday 31 January.

Three funding applications have been made to the Council’s Town Centre Living Fund.  The Fund supports the development of sites and empty buildings within town centres across the region.

 

 

Previous applications to the Fund have demonstrated that the approved funding from the council has been an enabler for organisations to source additional funding, allowing them to complete their projects, helping to support the aspirations of both the local community and the council.  Successful projects that have now been delivered because of investment from the Town Centre Living Fund include the former police station in Langholm and the former bank of Scotland in Wigtown both of which have been transformed to provide affordable living accommodation within the town centres.

Two of the applications that Members are being asked to consider next week are both for properties within Dumfries Town Centre:

Dumfries High Street Limited (trading as Midsteeple Quarter) are seeking funding to complete the Oven project to convert a long-empty High Street building into the flagship development for the Midsteeple Quarter project for Dumfries town centre.  This funding allocation will act as a catalyst so that the Midsteeple Project can then submit further applications to external organisations for significant levels of capital funding for their project.

Saint Bride’s Anglican Church are seeking funding of £45,704 to enable them to consider the long-term future of the iconic Greyfriars Kirk.  The Trustees and Congregation of Saint Brides wish to investigate robust and viable options for the building’s long-term future.  Utility bills and repair costs are a placing significant burden on available funds, meaning that a longer-term solution is required to avoid the possibility of the building falling into dereliction.

The Trustees and the Congregation have been working with the older LGBT community in Dumfries and Galloway to look at ways new housing could meet the needs of this community.  The application from Saint Bride’s is to allow the Trustees to explore the option of developing the land at the rear of the church for affordable town centre housing for rent.

The third application to the fund is for the re-allocation of funding previously made to Cunninghame Housing Association.  At the 6 September meeting of Communities committee, Members agreed the transfer of Park Place, Lockerbie Project from Cunninghame Housing Association to Building Craftsmen.  They specialise in the construction of commercial and residential properties and are a significant employer in the region.  To ensure that this significant site within he town of Lockerbie can be utilised, Building Craftsmen stated that they would be able to develop the site through the Scottish Government’s Partnership Support for Regeneration funding stream.

Chair of the Communities Committee, Andy Ferguson, said;

“Our Council is ambitious about the local economy and we aspire to regenerate our town centres and settlements. By bringing empty properties back into use and encouraging people to live in these locations, we can improve their sustainability and vibrancy.  This fund aims to enable projects that will provide affordable housing while also contributing to town centre regeneration and supporting the empowerment of local communities, giving people a stronger voice on the issues that matter to them.  By encouraging the refurbishment of empty properties and providing homes for our communities we will support the ongoing work aimed at improving the sustainability and vibrancy of our town centres and settlements.”

Vice Chair, John Martin, added;  

“Our Council has set aside £1 million for the Town Centre Living Fund to support projects that will help bring back town centre properties into use and provide much needed affordable housing in our town centres.  The three proposals that will come before members at the committee next week are all very ambitious and demonstrate that groups in our communities have the vision to help make our town centres attractive places to stay in.”

NEW ENTERPRISE AGENCY "MUST BE ROOTED IN THE SOUTH OF SCOTLAND” WAS CLEAR MESSAGE FROM PARLIAMENTARY VISIT TO GALASHIELS, SAYS LOCAL MSP

The need for the proposed new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to be rooted in the South of Scotland was the clear message that came from the visit to Galashiels by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee last night, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

Local Councillors, businesses, communities and local residents made the case at a public consultation meeting held by the Committee in Galashiels College on Wednesday 23rd January for the new Agency to be accountable to the area and focused on providing local solutions to local problems.

Colin Smyth, who is the only South Scotland MSP who sits on the Committee, welcomed the Committee holding its second consultation event on the Bill in the South of Scotland following the visit to Dumfries earlier this month. He has pledged to put forward a series of amendments to the  bill establishing the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to ensure a legal requirement for the new agency to consult the local community and to put in place a mechanism to be established for the new Agency to be held to account by local stakeholders in the Borders. 

Speaking after the Committee meeting in Galashiels Colin Smyth MSP said, “It was vital for the committee to come to the South of Scotland to listen to local views as ultimately the most important people in this whole process as the residents of the South of Scotland. This needs to be their Agency not the Governments”.

“Although there was unanimous support at the meeting for a new Agency, the Committee were left in no doubt that the Agency must be rooted in the South of Scotland. That means it needs to have processes in place for the local community to hold it to account and the membership of the board needs to reflect the views of the local communities. If that does not happen then the Agency won't find the local solutions to the local economic problems we face in the south”.

“There was real opposition to the Government simply being able to hand pick the board and Chairperson of the new Agency without local input. I intend to bring forward a number of amendments to the bill in the coming weeks to make sure it is far more accountable to the South of Scotland”

TOM'S BREXIT LATEST

Tom Armstrong

Hi, I'm Tom Armstrong, DGChamber President -

I don't think anyone needs reminding that we are set to leave the EU in a little over two months' time on March 29.
What is happening? What's the latest - well, to be honest, that's changing on an almost hourly basis.

At DGChamber we are doing everything in our power to help you prepare by giving you the tools and information you need.

We've put together a collection of links which will give you the latest advice on Brexit for businesses:

Click here to access the Government's 'Prepare for EU Exit' website, which has a wealth of information for businesses on issues such as employing EU citizens; importing, exporting and transporting; operating in the EU; regulations and standards for products and goods; using personal data; European and domestic funding; intellectual property; energy and climate; and public procurement.

Click here for a tool to help you prepare for EU Exit. This asks seven questions across key business operation areas that will be impacted and then, depending on your answers, pulls together relevant guidance from across government departments.

Click here for advice on preparing for a 'no deal' Brexit should the UK leave without a Withdrawal Agreement and the accompanying transition period.

Click here for the British Chambers of Commerce's Brexit Hub.

HARPER WELCOMES BOOST IN TOURISM FIGURES

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has welcomed figures which show that the number of overseas visitors to Scotland from Europe has increased by 22% in the past 12 months to the end of September 2018.

Over the same period, the money spent by European visitors whilst visiting Scotland also increased by 7% – with total spending last year at £1.15bn.

The figures also showed there was a 14.3% increase in overseas overnight visits to Scotland (now worth £3.5bn) and a 3.3% increase in overseas tourism expenditure in Scotland (from £2.18bn to 2.25bn).

The increase is in contrast to the overall UK figures which have seen a 5.4% fall in overseas overnight visits to the UK, and a 7.9% fall in overseas tourism expenditure in the UK, when compared to the previous 12 months.

In the last known data recorded for specific regions, which was for 2017, Dumfries & Galloway welcomed 34,000 international visitors, who spent a combined £42m during their time in the county.

Commenting Emma Harper said:

“This is welcome news that Scotland is attracting more and more international tourists, and that numbers specifically from the European mainland have increased so dramatically, despite the challenges posed by the threat of Brexit.

“Tourism contributes so much to our economy helping raise around £6bn of GDP to the Scottish economy, and employs in the region of 207,000 people across the country.

“In Dumfries & Galloway we truly live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and there are so many great attractions in the South West, such as Threave Castle, Kirkcudbright Galleries, our beautiful hills, and our annual events, such as the Stranraer Oyster Festival, Galloway Hills Rally, the Drambusters Whisky Festival in Dumfries, and the Wigtown Book Festival, which attract visitors from across the globe.

“Of course, ahead of Burns Night, we cannot forget Dumfries’s important connection to the life of our National Bard, with the Robert Burns Centre, Robert Burns House and the Mausoleum, as well as the statues of Robert Burns and his wife Jean Armour, all located in the town, and of course, Ellisland – the family home of Robert and Jeane – just up the road on the A76.

“Dumfries & Galloway was also one of the local authorities to receive Scottish Government funding specifically for rural tourist sites, which will see improvements made to facilities at the Otter Pools near Clatteringshaws Loch, with the aim of bringing more visitors to the area.

“The Scottish Government, which funds VisitScotland with around £45m to bring these visitors to the country, continues to back the tourism industry in Scotland, and has already earmarked £500,000 to be spent on marketing the South of Scotland – defined as the regions of Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders – to potential visitors in the next two financial years. I look forward to seeing how this funding will be spent to bring more people to South Scotland.”

Region cannot let Borderlands 'pass them by'

Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson says the Borderlands Growth Deal is an economic opportunity the region cannot afford to let pass them by.

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP was speaking in a debate on future City and Region Deals in the Scottish Parliament, with the Borderlands Growth Deal proposals approaching their final stages.

Mr Carson welcomed correspondence today from the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, that the Secretary of State aims for Heads of Terms to be signed off by the end of May.

He believes the need for an economic boost has never been greater for the region, and the deal could help  reverse the trend in young people moving away from the region.

In his speech, Mr Carson also highlighted the need for urgent regeneration in Stranraer with the SNP Government failing to deliver on many promises of investment since ferries were lost to the town.

Commenting Finlay Carson MSP said: “With its cross border element, the Borderlands Growth Deal is unique getting towards an agreement has not been without it’s challenges.

“The region is in dire need of a major economic boost and this is an opportunity we simply cannot afford to let pass us by.

“We must attract investment to the region to encourage our young people to live and work here.

“All too often, this region has been forgotten about and that simply has to change.

“Stranraer, in particular has been promised a lot by the SNP Government in terms of infrastructure projects, but local people are still waiting to see them get off the ground.

“The Borderlands Growth Deal is a major opportunity to regenerate the area and I hope that it can become a reality as soon as possible.”