Monday, 29 June 2015

New help to regenerate town centres

Margaret Burgess MSP has welcomed a new £4m fund that will help bring back to life some of the empty homes and vacant High Street properties in local towns.

The SNP Scottish Government’s ‘Town Centre Empty Fund’ will help to revive empty residential and commercial spaces throughout North Ayrshire and across Scotland, creating new affordable homes in the process.

Funding will be administered by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and will be provided to registered social landlords and developers, including in Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.

Since 2010, the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has brought over 900 homes back into use and encouraged 17 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to appoint Empty Homes Officers.

Margaret Burgess said, “I am delighted the Town Centre Empty Homes Fund has been launched and that North Ayrshire and the rest of Scotland will benefit from it.

“I would encourage North Ayrshire’s registered social landlords and developers to apply for funding so that we can begin to see empty homes filled with those who need them and commercial spaces can be revamped for public use.”

The Cunninghame South MSP, who is also the SNP Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Welfare, noted, “Transforming more unused spaces into comfortable homes will help provide more affordable housing in Scotland.

“There are currently an estimated 27,000 long-term private empty homes and it makes sense to put these properties to good use to ensure more people have access to high quality, affordable housing.”

The deadline for applications to the Town Centre Empty Homes Fund is August 21, 2015.

Businesses warned over 'data' scam

Businesses in North Ayrshire are being warned to ignore any letters claiming to be from an organisation calling itself ‘UK Data Control Scotland’.

North Ayrshire Council’s Trading Standards department has issued the warning after a number of local businesses contacted them regarding letters that looked as if they were from a government department and which instructed the companies to complete a form providing their VAT (Value Added Tax) registration number in order that a ‘UK Data-Control Portal’ could be updated.

Close examination of the letter revealed the company behind its issue has an address in Hamburg, Germany and that a fee of £790, payable for a minimum of three years, would be incurred.

There is no government department called ‘UK Data Control Scotland’ nor is there an official ‘UK Data-Control Portal’.

Councillor Marie Burns, North Ayrshire Council’s SNP Cabinet Member for Economy and Employment, said, “We are concerned that local businesses may believe the letter to be from an official government source, which is not the case.

“If businesses sign and return the form to confirm their details are correct they could end up being tied into a contract and liable for high costs.

“Our Trading Standards Team has had several enquiries from businesses about this and has advised them that they are not obliged to provide any information to this company.”

Any local business concerned about unsolicited letters, emails or phone calls should telephone Trading Standards on 01294 324100 and ask for Business Advice.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Aria's European success

A young Saltcoats girl has taken-on the best of European karate and returned with two medals.

Aria Pascual recently competed in the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Junior European Championships, held in Bochum, Germany. 

A member of the Karate Do Shotokan club, which meets in Saltcoats, Aria secured Silver in the Individual Kata, which involves performing a detailed pattern of movements, each of which is a complete fighting system.  The Saltcoats girl also took home a Bronze medal for the Individual Kumite, which translates from Japanese as “grappling hands” and involves competing against an adversary.

Aria’s European success builds on her taking three of the top prizes at this year’s JKA Scottish Championships, held last March, in which she was crowned champion in three categories – Kata, Kumite and Team Kumite. To round off a very successful day, Aria was also awarded Best Junior Competitor 2015.

Following the European championships, Aria’s sporting and physical success was recognised by her school, Ardrossan Academy, which presented her with the Coltart Trophy for Outstanding Achievement in Sport.

Aria trains with Sensei John Deans at the Saltcoats Dojo in St Matthews Academy.

Shotokan Karate is based on the teachings of the Japan Karate Association and further information about the local club is available here.

93-year-old Saltcoats woman robbed in her home

Police Scotland is appealing for witnesses after a shocking incident that occurred in the early hours of this morning (Thursday, June 25).

A 93-year-old woman woke around 2:00am to find a male intruder in her home at Argyle Road in Saltcoats.

The man assaulted the elderly woman before stealing from her home.  Police say the person they are looking for in relation to the assault and robbery is white, aged in his early 20s and speaks with a local accent.  When last seen he was wearing dark clothing.

Detective Inspector William McDicken said, “This was a very distressing experience for this elderly lady and it is important that we trace the man responsible as soon as possible.

“I would appeal to anyone who may have any information as to who is responsible, this person needs to be apprehended as he has preyed upon a vulnerable lady within her own home.

“I would like to reassure the community that crimes like this are rare, but we all must do all we can to apprehend this man as soon as possible.  Any information, however small you feel it is, may make all the difference, please call police at Saltcoats on 101 or, alternatively, call CRIMESTOPPERS on 0800 555 111 where anonymity will be maintained.”

Tony and Sam recognised for contribution to Winton

Two stalwarts of Ardrossan Winton Rovers have been honoured by the Scottish Junior Football Association (SJFA).

The recent Annual General Meeting of the SJFA saw Long-Service Awards presented to Tony Da Prato and Sam Morrison who, between them, have dedicated 76 years to the Ardrossan junior side.

Mr Da Prato has served the Winton for 41 years, in roles such as Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary.  He is also widely known as the ‘most honest linesman’ in the junior game.

Sam Morrison has been a crucial element of the Winton committee-structure for 35 years, also having held the positions of Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary.

Both Tony and Sam are directors of Ardrossan Winton Rovers Community Sports Club, which acts as trustees for Winton Park.

[Photo: Sam Morrison (left) and Tony Da Prato (right) receive their Long-Service Awards from the President of the Scottish Junior Football Association, Harry Lawrie.] 

5K walk to tackle cervical cancer

Ardrossan woman Suzanne Fernando has said a “big thank you” to everyone who took part in last week’s five-kilometre walk, raising funds to help combat cervical cancer.

The event – Steps for Jo’s – was held at Eglinton Park on June 13th and was officially started by North Ayrshire Provost Joan Sturgeon.  Amongst the women taking part was local MP Patricia Gibson (Cllr Sturgeon and Mrs Gibson are pictured with event organiser Mrs Fernando).

Suzanne, a survivor of cervical cancer who now works with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to raise awareness of the illness, told, “It was a truly memorable day, shared by over 150 participants.

“We are now in our fourth year and it was a huge increase on last year’s event.  I’m sure it will continue to grow.

“Steps for Jo's is such a great event, where we celebrate life and remember those who have lost their battle with cervical cancer.”

During the 5K walk, Suzanne wore a hand-crafted tutu donated by Kilwinning woman Karen Jeffrey, while the event also received support from B&M store (Stevenston), Sainsbury's (Irvine), Co-op (Kilwinning), April Elizabeth Paige Smith - Strawberry Tarts, Bookers (Irvine), Susan Irvine Bakers (Irvine), Rachel Blades (Rachel's Cakes) and Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.

Suzanne said, “Organising an annual fundraising walk for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is a great opportunity to get the community together while raising funds to run support services for those affected, and help educate the public on why attending cervical screening and having the HPV vaccination is so important.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, commented, “Steps for Jo’s allows the charity to extend its support network across the UK as well as work towards a future where cervical cancer becomes a disease of the past.

“It’s also an opportunity to celebrate those affected and remember the women who have sadly lost their life to the disease.”

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust                             

Friday, 19 June 2015

Post Office break-in

Police Scotland is investigating a break-in at the Lifestyle Express shop in Ardrossan’s Glasgow Street, which houses the town’s main Post Office. understands thieves struck in the early hours of Wednesday morning, having cut-through CCTV cables before forcing entry to the premises.

It is believed an alarm was triggered and the criminals fled before police officers arrived on the scene.

The shop’s till was stolen but contained only a small amount of money.

Police enquiries into the break-in are continuing. Anyone with information can contact officers by calling 101.

National recognition for Council workers

North Ayrshire Council workers have had a remarkable week, winning awards and praise at three prestigious local government events.

Kicking-off the winning way was the council’s Customer Services Team, which took gold for ‘Improvement Strategy of the Year’ and silver in the ‘Complaints Management Team of the Year’ at the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards in London.

The event was hosted by comedian Greg Davies and saw North Ayrshire Council beat teams from corporate giants, such as Lloyds Bank, Dell Computers and Barclays Bank.

 The local authority’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate Support and Welfare Reform, SNP councillor Ruth Maguire, said, “The new Improvement Strategy is delivering great results and the Complaints Management Team is adding value to an already competent and efficient customer services team.  These examples reflect the innovation taking place across the Council to transform service delivery and bring benefit to customers.”

Next up was the Scottish Awards for Business Excellence, held in Glasgow, which saw council staff chalk-up three-star recognition of excellence.

After being assessed by representatives of the European Foundation for Quality Management, North Ayrshire was ‘Recognised for Excellence’, which is awarded in recognition of an organisation’s performance across several areas, including demonstrating a conviction to take change seriously and investing in practices designed to deliver success.

In addition, council staff secured first-place in the ‘Lean Six Sigma’ award, which was presented to the local team for transforming how occupational-therapy equipment is delivered to customers.  Equipment lead-in times have been slashed from 34.5 days to 1.5 day.

Commenting, Cllr Willie Gibson, Leader of the Council’s SNP administration, said, “This award and accreditation reflects the pace and scale of positive transformation taking place across the Council.  They show why we are the Council that others look to in pursuit of excellence and are testament to the efforts of every single employee.”

Rounding-off the very successful week, North Ayrshire Council was ‘highly commended’ for innovation at the MJ Local Government Achievement Awards, held at the London Hilton Hotel and hosted by former Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Two of the Council’s three award-submissions received national recognition from amongst hundreds of entries - ‘Best Council Services Team’ (Facilities Management) and ‘Innovation in Channel Shift’ (Customer Services) were highly commended by a panel of expert judges.

Willie Gibson said, “The MJ Awards praise innovation and recognise and promote the best work of managers and staff across local government.  To have two of our three award entries highly commended demonstrates that we are on track, on purpose and on the national platform of success.

“The pace and level of achievement taking place across this Council is testament to the tremendous efforts of our staff and the quality of their work.  I congratulate every single one of them in helping us achieve this credible acclaim on the national stage.”

Friday, 12 June 2015

Accies win planning appeal

Scottish Government planners have overturned North Ayrshire Council’s decision to block a residential development on Memorial Field, home to Ardrossan Academicals Rugby Club.

Last December the council’s Planning Committee rejected the proposal to build 21 flats on ‘green space’ at the field off Sorbie Road in Ardrossan.  Saltcoats & Stevenston Independent councillor Ronnie McNicol, seconded by Ardrossan SNP councillor John Bruce, moved that the application be refused on the basis that it was “contrary to Policy ENV12 of the Local Development Plan as it would set a precedent for the incremental loss of open space”.

However, the Ardrossan Academy Memorial Field Trust, the body that had submitted the application for outline planning consent regarding the residential development, appealed the Planning Committee’s decision to Scottish Ministers.

Following an investigation by the Scottish Government’s Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, Mr Michael Shiel, a Reporter appointed by Scottish Ministers, has concluded that “the proposed development accords overall with the relevant provisions of the development plan and that there are no material considerations which would justify refusing to grant planning permission in principle”.

The Reporter’s decision means the Memorial Field Trust can now proceed with plans to create a new two-storey clubhouse on land used principally by the local rugby club.  Proposals show the ground-floor of the new clubhouse would contain sports facilities, such as changing rooms and showers, while there would be a bar and function-room on the upper-floor.

Mr Shiel’s overturning of the local Planning Committee’s decision also means Memorial Field Trustees can produce more detailed plans and submit an application in relation to the development of flatted residential properties on the site opposite Ardrossan Academy.

In his report into the controversial proposal, the Scottish Government Reporter dismissed concerns expressed locally concerning houses being built on land that was originally purchased as a memorial to former pupils of Ardrossan Academy who lost their lives fighting for their country in time of war.  Mr Shiel concluded such concerns were not material to a planning matter.

Certain planning-related conditions will be applied to the proposed development at the Memorial Field and public notices must be published before any construction work begins.