Shovels are finally in the ground as work begins on the new £4.2million Garnock Visitor and Community Hub at Lochshore.

Representatives from North Ayrshire Council were joined by local community partners, including Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Scottish Enterprise, Garnock Rugby Club, Sport Scotland and Land Trust, as they heralded the beginning of construction.

It is hoped that around 100 jobs could be created directly and indirectly as a result of investment in the site.

Local sports, environmental and community groups will also have access to the facilities to support a variety of sports and events development at Lochshore.

Janet Dunsmore, Regeneration Manager for North Ayrshire Council, said: “We are delighted to have reached this milestone and it’s great to be joined by local and national partners who have all contributed so much to get us to this stage.”

“This site and our ambitious plans encapsulate what we are trying to do – work with local people and other larger organisations to use our land and assets to build something substantial for the community.”

Trish Wallace, President of Garnock Rugby Club, said: “I am delighted to see the works progressing at Lochshore.

“Garnock Rugby Club have been working towards this for a long time and we are proud to be working with our partners to create the Hub which will provide much-needed facilities.”

It is expected be ready and open in August 2022 and it is hoped that the new Visitor and Community Hub to the south of the loch will act as a facilitator of increased activity at the site.

Leisure and walking routes are planned around Kilbirnie Loch, incorporating heritage interpretation and play. While access to the site will be enhanced through new active travel routes connecting to and through the site to Kilbirnie, Beith, Garnock Community Campus and Glengarnock station. The first of which (a direct connection to Kilbirnie) will begin construction in 2021 with funding awarded by Sustrans.

Michael Ross, Operations Director at hub South West, the development partner of North Ayrshire Council, said: “We are delighted to see this project get underway. It will represent a fantastic community asset and benefit future generations. hub South West has been heavily involved in getting this project to its current stage and we look forward to delivering it for North Ayrshire Council, thereby adding to our strong track record as a proven development partner for the Authority.

“We have now successfully delivered over £130million of first-class projects for the Authority, including the nearby Garnock Community Campus. We look forward to it not only providing a lasting legacy as a building but also as a significant contribution to our focus on community wealth building and the positive impact it will have on the local economy and businesses.”

Gillian Adam, Head of Partnerships at Scottish Enterprise, said: “The Garnock Hub will benefit the local communities and the wider Ayrshire region in a number of ways – promoting sport and active travel as a way of improving both physical and mental health, helping tackle the climate emergency through environmental groups and creating employment opportunities.

“Place is a key priority for Scottish Enterprise, as well as helping create good, green jobs. This initiative is a shining example of how we are working with partners to deliver that, and I am hugely excited to see it get underway.”

Tom Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth, said:

“I am delighted we have been able to support this fantastic community-led project.

“We are determined to realise Scotland’s potential to improve the lives of its people by supporting inclusive and sustainable economic growth and create more successful places.

“This project supported by more than £1.7 million through The Regeneration Capital Grant Fund will put the community at the centre of delivering a fantastic new facility for the local area, delivering on improving the health and wellbeing of the community while also providing jobs and a boost to the local economy.”

David Wallace, from the Nuclear Decommision Authority, added: “The NDA is committed to supporting projects that offer long-term sustainable jobs and bring wider benefits to the communities around our sites. The Lochshore project will be a huge asset to the area in terms of both its economic and environmental contribution.”

The Visitor and Community Hub, associated pathways and play areas, and tree planting and habitat creation will make up the first phase of the development. It is anticipated that the Hub building could attract up to 145,000 visitors per annum by the third year of operation.

Lochshore will also benefit from marketing as a key attraction within the Clyde

Muirshiel Regional Park and act as a destination hub for The Coig, allowing Lochshore to benefit from partnership promotion.