Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is set to prioritise the Balivanich Regeneration Project under the Town Centre Fund for 2019/20.
The Scottish Government announced in December 2018 that it would provide a new ring-fenced £50 million Town Centre Fund for 2019-20 within the local authority capital settlement. Following that announcement, the Scottish Government confirmed in March 2019 that the award for ‘Na h-Eileanan Siar’ was a capital grant of £223,000.
The purpose of the grant is to enable local authorities to stimulate and support place based economic investments which encourage town centres to diversify and flourish, creating footfall through local improvements and partnerships. Specifically, this fund will contribute to transformative investments which drive local economic activities and re-purpose town centres to become more diverse, successful and sustainable. In particular, the grant will fund a wide range of investments including town centre living and supporting town centres to be vibrant, accessible and enterprising places. This could include re-purposing buildings for housing, retail, business, social and community enterprise, services, leisure, and culture, tourism and heritage; and, improving access and infrastructure.
The Comhairle has been at the forefront of a number of developments to support Stornoway Town Centre. These include the previous Town Centre Fund, the Townscape Heritage Initiative, Lews Castle Museum and Archive, Castle Grounds Regeneration project and more recently, the Newton Regeneration project which secured £2.3m from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF). In addition, the Comhairle is facilitating the Stornoway Vision Strategy and is supporting the development of a Business Improvement District proposal and the employment of a Business Development Officer. Similarly, the Comhairle through the former Community Capital Grant Fund and the current RCGF has supported investment in both Tarbert and Castlebay.
Cllr Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, said: “Following discussions with the Scottish Government, it is proposed to prioritise this grant to support the recently approved Balivanich Regeneration Project. The Report on the Balivanich Strategic Vision to the Sustainable Development Committee in September 2018 was endorsed by the Comhairle. The Balivanich Regeneration Project meets the key criteria for the use of the Town Centre Fund in relation to adopting a town centre based approach to regeneration and in relation to the Place Principle.
In population terms, North Benbecula, which includes Balivanich, has a population of 790, while South Benbecula has a population of 532, a total of 1,032. Typically, the Scottish Government use the National Records of Scotland (NRS) definition of a town centre which is a minimum population of 500, while the Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) has a working definition of a town as a population of 1,000.
Cllr Crichton continued: “Prioritising Balivanich therefore affords an opportunity to accelerate aspects of the Balivanich Regeneration Strategy and to seek match funding in order to maximise the overall economic and social impact. This approach retains a degree of flexibility to consider other investments in order to ensure the grant conditions are met in relation to using the funding in the 2019/20 financial year.”