Saturday, 2 November 2013

Update on Saltcoats Town Hall renovations

Officials of North Ayrshire Council will this week deliver a progress report on the refurbishment of Saltcoats Town Hall, which began in May.

The report will confirm the local authority has already received a grant of £162,588 from Historic Scotland, and has made two separate applications for £1.1m – one to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the other to the Scottish Government Capital Grant Scheme.  However, officers state, “it is considered unlikely that both outstanding applications will result in an award of the full amount.”

The external funding is in addition to £1.9m allocated to the project from the Council’s General Services Capital Programme.  This money was secured by Saltcoats & Stevenston Independent councillor Ronnie McNicol at the Council’s budget meeting in February 2012.  Cllr McNicol’s call for the money to be set-aside for redevelopment of the Town Hall was backed by SNP councillor Willie Gibson who also represents Saltcoats & Stevenston and is now the Leader of the Council following the SNP’s success at the Local Government Election in May 2012.

Statutory approvals required to allow the renovation project to begin included Listed Building Consent and a Building Warrant.  The application process for Listed Building Consent is still underway, with the outcome of a recent inspection by Historic Scotland due this week.  The organisation is believed to have already indicated to the Council that it sees no significant issues and welcomes the project to bring the Town Hall back to life.

Once renovations are complete, the building is scheduled to become home to the Council’s Housing Offices for Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson, the Saltcoats Registration Office and the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre.  In addition, the local public and community groups will again be able to use the refurbished main hall.

At present there is a tenant in one of the ground floor retail units associated with the Town Hall building in Countess Street.   Staff from the Council and the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company are believed to be working with the operators of the business to assist them in finding new premises.

As previously reported by the3towns, a £3m revamp of the Town Hall was originally announced in early 2007 by the then Labour administration of North Ayrshire Council.  However, after the local authority election in May 2007, at which the Labour administration was returned to power, the funding for renovation work was reduced to £1.9m, with the balance (£1.1m) being reallocated to a project for a new community centre at the Stevenson Institute in Largs.

As a result of Labour councillors’ inaction, Saltcoats Town Hall continued to deteriorate and was subsequently closed to the public.   At a subsequent Council meeting, Cllr Ronnie McNicol forced the then Labour Leader, Cllr David O’Neill, to admit that the £1.9m had actually been removed from the local authority’s budget and Labour had no plans to do anything with the Town Hall.  That remained the position of the Council until Ronnie McNicol and Willie Gibson secured funding of £1.9m in February 2012, which kick-started the current renovation project.

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