"IT WILL BE WORTH IT IN THE END” -Disruption, but Dunoon will have “a centre to be proud of”
Last Updated on Friday, 05 March 2010 16:33 Written by Aileen McNicol Thursday, 04 March 2010 17:00
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DUNOON’S funding award from a Scottish government fund has come as a welcome boost to cash-strapped Argyll and Bute Council - allowing it to carry out a mixture of much-needed “improvements” and “maintenance” to revitalise the tired town centre.
Last Wednesday, around 40 local business owners attended a presentation on planned works for the town - hearing that while a certain amount of disruption was unavoidable, the end result would far outweigh such temporary drawbacks.
However, for the public session which followed, just ten local residents turned up to hear what’s in store for Dunoon after it received a slice of the coveted town centre regeneration funding pie.
The Scottish government had allocated £60 million, for which towns all over Scotland submitted bids last year.
The local authority’s head of roads and amenity services, Stewart Turner, told the meeting that the council had to decide how to spend the money by March and works must be completed by October of this year.
He added: “We have about 75 per cent of the budget for what we wanted to do. And it is a tight timescale within which to complete the works.
“At least we’ve got some money to do something, and people will see a major difference to the town centre within a year.”
Next, Simon Shillington of consultants Scott Wilson Scotland Ltd outlined the works which will take place in Dunoon town centre over the coming months.
These include the creation of a seating area on the vacant land next to the Burgh Hall, new street lighting and signage, landscaping, footpath repairs and hand rails for the Castle Hill and refurbishment of crossing points in Argyll Street.
The exterior facade of the Queen’s Hall will also be upgraded and the nib at the junction of John Street and Argyll Street will be widened.
Mr Shillington said: “Trying to achieve something meaningful across the whole town centre area has been a challenge.
“However, the work at Castle Hill and improved access to Castle House and the gardens will help create a strong visual gateway to the town.
“Significant planting, including semi-mature trees, around Highland Mary and in the garden area will improve this historic setting and enhance what are important viewpoints for the town.”
Cllr Bruce Marshall added: “The new seating area at the Burgh Hall, which will include planting, an archway and a fixed point for the town’s Christmas tree, will help to enhance the work already ongoing with the Burgh Hall project.”
Regarding the upgrades to the current pedestrian points in Argyll Street, Stewart Turner said: “These are posing something of a safety hazard at the moment, although there have not been any major accidents. People are not sure exactly what they are and they need to be resurfaced and formalised, complying with disabled access requirements.”
Asked whether this was more about repair than regeneration, he replied: “This is not a maintenance issue.”
When pressed about the matter of maintenance as opposed to regeneration, particularly with regards to the upgrade of the Queen’s Hall facade, Cllr Marshall said: “The contribution of LEADER funding to the overall total was important, and in this respect, because the Queen’s Hall is one of the first things seen by tourists, it is very important that it looks good. This had a big part to play in why we got that funding.”
Other plans include street furniture with a consistent theme, including hanging baskets and banners to add colour to the streetscape. Existing bus shelters and railings will be repainted in a black and gold colour scheme.
In addition, five interactive TV screen panels will be installed around town, providing both local information and advertising opportunities for the town’s businesses.
Tenders for the various works went out during February, and contractors will be appointed later this month, as the improvements must be completed by October. However, although this means that the town will be looking much better by the turn of the year, it also means that local businesses face disruption during the crucial summer tourist season.
This point was raised by several of those in attendance at the business presentation, who were concerned at the prospect of Argyll Street suffering from temporary closures while work is being carried out.
“We will try to keep disruption to a minimum - we know it’s important to keep Argyll Street working and open for business,” said Stewart Turner.
“But if you want us to improve, then there’s no other way. There will inevitably be disruption. We’re not saying we will close the street for six months.
“Because Argyll Street is designated as a residential area, we are limited as to when we can work - but any closures will just be parts, fractions of a day - short-term and temporary.
“We are aware of the need to maintain access for shops and the finer detail of this can be negotiated when contractors are appointed. We are more than happy to meet with you again to discuss this further.”
He concluded: “Nothing is surer than the fact that there will be disruption, but at the end of it all, we will have something to really be proud of.”
The total sum available to Dunoon for the improvements to the town centre totals £576,000 - including a combination of funding from the Scottish government Town Centre Regeneration Fund and the LEADER programme.
Once contractors are appointed later this month, site visits will take place in April, with work carried out over the summer season.