Area’s regeneration goals are being met, says Patrick Wiggins
The impact of our work on the Irvine Bay area comes into sharp focus in June each year when we hold our annual public meeting.
This year, we can report on progress made since we were first established in 2006 – and the strides forward we still expect to make through work and projects in the pipeline and already under way.
While our focus has narrowed over the past year, from a general regeneration remit including revitalising our town centres to the development of the i3 Enterprise Area in Irvine, our goals remain the same – to create jobs and opportunities for people in the area through the work we do. Our area of North Ayrshire – made up of the five towns of Irvine, Saltcoats, Stevenston, Ardrossan and Kilwinning – benefits from the creation by the Scottish Government of the Enterprise Area in Irvine, i3.
But while that is now very much our focus it has been useful to look back at the work that has been carried out, is under way, and is in the pipeline to help deliver prosperity and a better future.
Our work continues to gather pace from the early, formative, largely planning years to the greater focus on delivery in the present.
To date our projects and programmes have helped create 777 jobs for local people – and projects under way should help set the environment for the creation of many more as we work to achieve our target of 2,500 jobs.
Our activity has also created an estimated 378 jobs within the construction sector with a number of main contracts currently on site. So in terms of jobs, we are delivering and as major projects get under way we expect to see those numbers rising still further.
Allied to jobs, our clear commitment to local training and skills shows in the creation of 92 training places receiving a combined total of 1,238 training weeks.
Our work within the local economy has seen us support more than 40 companies to develop and expand their businesses.
Of course, much of our work revolves around physical regeneration, and in that regard we have redeveloped over 9,803sq m of office space and 38,038sq m of commercial space.
Last year saw the completion of The Grange business centre in Stevenston, which has provided 350sq m of new offices and 220sq m of new retail space. A further 1,300sq m of new office space has also just been completed as part of the first phase of Annickbank Innovation Campus.
Nearly 50,000sq m of public realm within our towns and business areas has been the subject of major physical improvements including Kilwinning Main Street and Irvine town centre. And we’ve reduced nearly 60,360sq m of derelict land and buildings within key locations.
A feature of our early work within i3 Irvine’s Enterprise Area has included the redevelopment of 500sq m of office space at Innovation B, which has subsequently been let to local company Oricom as their new head office.
All enormously valuable, of course, but regeneration – if it is to be successful and sustainable – has to be rooted in its local community, and in that regard we have worked hard to engage with and involve local people.
For example, through our education programme 5,123 pupils from 41 schools, three colleges, one university and 41 business partners have been involved in our work and to date local pupils have gained over 158 weeks of work experience.
Our work has seen us engage with nearly 18,000 people at our various events, meetings and public displays and we have over 2,700 visits every month to our website.
We continue to work in partnership with others, in particular North Ayrshire Council, others from Team North Ayrshire, and the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. Our major core funder remains North Ayrshire Council.
However, we have also been highly successful at bringing in additional funds, from Europe, the UK and Scottish Governments. We have secured more than £11m in funding to support local community focused projects.
Most recently this included £1.1m secured for the redevelopment of Saltcoats Town Hall, plus previous projects at Kilwinning Community Sports Hub and Trinity Church.
Our ability to draw in funding has helped us to support 27 local community groups on a range of local projects such as the relocation to new premises in Irvine of Cunninghame Furniture Recycling Centre and the award-winning PRYDE project which is based in Kilwinning.
Supporting our history and heritage is vital and we have restored nine listed buildings within key sites – essential to bring new opportunities and helping revitalise town centres and create businesses and jobs.
Finally, it is also heartening that our work is being recognised by national bodies – with five national awards having been won.
i3, Irvine’s Enterprise Area is our focus now, and here again significant strides are being taken. In recent months, several businesses have located in the Enterprise Area, allowing local businesses to expand and new businesses to move in to Irvine Bay.
• Patrick Wiggins is chief executive of Irvine Bay Regeneration Company www.irvinebay.co.uk