Enterprising partnerships are the way ahead, says Doug Smith
The regeneration of any area is an holistic process – designed to help create jobs and increased affluence, security and prospects for the people who live, in our case, in Irvine Bay.
It is about developing wider economic opportunities through investment in physical business infrastructure and assets, as well as improving and enhancing our housing offer, the public realm in our town centres and key locations, supporting community engagement and developing a sense of pride in the place.
Irvine Bay has won a number of national awards for the work we have carried out in these areas – including our wide-ranging education programme. And as our work progresses, we need to constantly revisit, re-evaluate, and re-prioritise. Regeneration cannot be about short-term planning.
Scotland’s industrial heartland
Irvine Bay Regeneration Company was established to address market failure – private sector investment in development was sparse and fragmented following decades of decline in an area which was once part of Scotland’s industrial heartland.
Irvine Bay works closely with public sector partners – in particular North Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise – across the five towns of Irvine, Saltcoats, Stevenston, Ardrossan and Kilwinning, and also with the private sector and local business community, which is strongly represented on our board.
The early times following our first full year of operation in 2007-8 were spent creating a sense of place and pride within the local community, developing plans, creating partnerships, and buying and developing key assets designed to meet strategic objectives. At the time we were established, our target was to assist the creation of 1,100 new jobs by 2020, and to create an improved physical infrastructure in which businesses could invest and communities thrive.
Successful projects have been undertaken, creating new opportunities. Irvine Bay has supported the creation of more than 360 full-time jobs since our first full year of operation – with many more possible through projects that are underway if we are successful in securing private investment.
This has been achieved despite the deepest and longest recession in living memory, and – entirely understandably – a reduction in funding to support the company’s activities because of the very severe pressure on the public purse.
Plan for 2,500 new jobs
However, it should be recognised that these targets themselves have to move in line with other circumstances. We have refocused efforts to attract jobs and investment, and this has been greatly helped by the Scottish Government’s decision last year to create Irvine Enterprise Area, i3. The 132-hectare site is unique in Scotland, with both business rates relief and accelerated capital allowances available on different parts of the Enterprise Area. Demand for space has been high.
This designation provides us with additional opportunities to attract investment and has seen us increase our performance targets, despite the squeeze on funding. We now want to assist the creation of a stretch target of around 2,500 new jobs by the end of our business plan.
i3 is part of the Scottish Life Sciences Enterprise Area, and has a range of financial incentives that will be attractive not just to bio-tech companies but for any business wishing to make significant investment in plant and machinery. Our target markets for attracting investment are life sciences, engineering, ICT and data centres, where our incentives, infrastructure and skilled labour market are particularly suited.
The Enterprise Area focuses on land around Irvine Industry and Innovation (i3) business park, including Annickbank Innovation Campus, and expansion land at GlaxoSmithKline. The area is well served with infrastructure and utilities, including physical and digital connectivity.
Working with Scottish Enterprise, the extensive i3 business park has been split into a number of campuses for innovation, industry and investment aimed over the next five years at specialist industrial, manufacturing and distribution companies; providing superfast broadband accommodation for SMEs, R&D companies or other firms needing specialist space.
Working together with North Ayrshire Council, Irvine Bay’s £30 million transformation of Irvine town centre is also underway, following a similar, smaller and highly successful scheme in Kilwinning. In Ardrossan, a new medical centre is on site.
Working together with North Ayrshire Council, we have ensured that the investment made by both organisations in our towns has maximum regeneration impact.
• Doug Smith is chairman of the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company www.irvinebay.co.uk