THE possible future of one of Ardrossan’s most iconic buildings has been revealed, with new plans to save the Barony St John buildings.

And they include proposals for an Event Centre, a William Wallace visitor centre and a cafe area for people visiting the South Beach area.

Standing on the seafront of Ardrossan, the Barony St John’s Church complete with its iconic spires and clock tower, and the Barony St. John hall with its huge circular window whose pattern resembles the Star of David.

Both buildings are connected by an internal corridor but their future has been uncertain for a number of years now. Back in 2010, the buildings were placed on the “Buildings at Risk” Register and then upgraded to “At Risk” in 2012 before subsequently being sold by the Church of Scotland in December 2014.

Since that time, the church building has remained unused and in disrepair whilst the hall building has been partially renovated and is currently being used by a charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.

The Category “B” Listed Barony St John Church building was built in 1844 to designs by Glasgow architects Black and Salmon. James Salmon remains one of Glasgow’s most accomplished architects of the 19th Century responsible for the design of a number of church buildings throughout the West of Scotland. Ideas for the buildings are being pushed from all quarters including an Ardrossan Town Centre Regeneration Plan which contains a range of activities to realise a vision for the town as ‘… an attractive place to live, work and relax by the sea’, and of specific relevance to Barony St John notes the need to maximise the impact of regenerating the promenade, and generally accessing and connecting the town to the sea.

Regenerating Ardrossan and the wider “Three Towns” is also a key element of the North Ayrshire Council’s refreshed Economic Development and Regeneration Strategy 2016-2025, particularly its strategic objective ‘to maximise the economic potential of our islands and towns’.

In December 2017, North Ayrshire Council Tourism and Coastal Economy also launched their Tourism Action Plan 2018-2022 titled “Making Waves in North Ayrshire”.

A wide-ranging and ambitious tourism blueprint the document has been drawn up to help North Ayrshire fulfil its potential as a major destination for visitors.

The newly-approved tourism action plan aims to utilise the area’s coastal beauty as a key element in strategy.

The four-year plan will provide a particular focus on promoting the marine and coastal tourism available along the mainland coast and islands. North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership have also established the Three Towns Locality Partnership which recently confirmed their priority themes as Tourism, Community Regeneration, Civic Pride/Environment and Communication with a focus on the major project areas of Ardrossan Harbourside, Irvine/Ardeer Harbourside and the Clyde “Way” or Clyde “Rings”.

These priority themes, set out at the meeting in Ardrossan Civic Centre on December 19 last year, links with the strategies set out in the North Ayrshire Council “Making Waves” tourism strategy document and the Ayrshire Growth Deal. To support these aspirations for the area, a number of recent developments have sought to engage and involve local people in identifying ideas and priorities to support the regeneration of the town.

One of these engagements was The Three Town Charrette whose goal was to record proposals and organise them into themes and/ or locations so that the council and community organisations could develop the best approach.

Willie Miller, of Urban Design, who released The Three Town Charrette Report at the beginning of this month, said: “Barony St John and its potential for a music venue is mentioned in the table on page 40 of Town Specific projects which could have a beneficial impact on Quality of Life helping to create a Vibrant Economy, an important component of an Attractive Town helping Culture and Community.”

Turning the Barony St John buildings into an Events Centre would provide the opportunity to retain the characteristics of the original building whilst reinterpreting these for a more commercially viable and sustainable development model which will provide new and improved facilities for the local and wider area.

The new facility will provide flexible and traditional “hall” facilities through the smaller hall whilst the new “main venue” will create a facility which can be used for music festivals such as The Ardrossan Music Festival, live bands, art, comedy, theatre, weddings, cinema screenings, corporate events, training, education and community events. The new facility will also feature a café area attached and linking the existing Barony St John buildings and this will support services for the public using the shore front beach area.

With the potential “William Wallace Visitor Centre” in the café area to highlight Wallace’s connection with Ardrossan and the Castle and you can see how this development will benefit visitors and tourists alike and a fully redeveloped Barony St John Centre would sit centrally at the heart of the planned urban regeneration simultaneously being a symbol for its continued re-birth and providing numerous jobs to the town.

Options are also being considered to introduce an additional floored area to the smaller hall building providing dormitory-style accommodation for residential courses, groups participating in watersports, youth groups and visitors to the area.

Alan Bell, of the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, said: “The moment we saw the Barony St John buildings, we wanted to save them. “We have progressed initial discussions regarding the future of the Barony St John Regeneration Project relative to ownership, management and operation of a completed facility and taking the development proposals forward. At this stage, the creation of a Community Interest Company is being considered and will be discussed with the relevant parties during the next stage of development.

“We think that this is a really exciting project not just for the people of Ardrossan but for The Three Towns, North Ayrshire and beyond and can form one of the cornerstones of wider regeneration proposals.”