Councillors have been briefed on developments in tackling vacant and derelict land.

North Ayrshire has the fourth-highest mass of vacant land in Scotland, with 1,187 hectares of such ground – 12 per cent of the Scottish total.

But moves are underway in a bid to address the 210 problem sites across the local authority area.

Expansive sites include the 407 hectare Ardeer plot, Riverside at Irvine Enterprise Area, Hunterston and Lochshore, which were identified in the 2019 Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey.

The Buildings at Risk Register also outlines structures in need of attention, as well as those identified by council efforts through their Local Development Plan and Regeneration Delivery Plan documents.

In total, more than 250 locations have been deemed as requiring redevelopment – most of them in the hands of private owners.

Senior manager for regeneration, Louise Kirk, told North Ayrshire’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee: “Vacant and derelict land and buildings are currently recorded nationally, through the Vacant and Derelict Land Register and the Buildings at Risk register.

“The development of the regeneration delivery plan and the Local Development Plan also identified several sites which are not in a positive use and are viewed as a blight on our communities.

“It also highlights that there are 46 properties on the Buildings at Risk register, maintained by Historic Scotland as being buildings within conservation areas which are either vacant or in a state of disrepair.”

She said the authority aims to: “develop strategic regeneration sites in places, working in partnership with communities”, focusing on the “delivery of physical regeneration” between 2021 and 2026.

More than 40 sites requiring work were highlighted in the authority’s Regeneration Delivery Plan, many of which suffered as a result of vandalism and “anti-social use”.
Ms Kirk added: “The Regeneration Delivery Plan recognises that landowners are not always able to address the site and seeks to work with landowners and communities to tackle these.”

The plan outlines a “proactive approach” to tackling derelict and vacant sites, including reviewing ‘priority’ sites to assess “potential for development, redevelopment or promotion through planning” and identifies the need to create a programme of “place-based frameworks” to help funnel in investment through external funding sources.
It has led to applications to the UK Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ Fund, to advance plans for regeneration of the Lochshore and North Shore sites.

Moves are also underway in an attempt to secure funding from Westminster’s Community Renewal Fund for a pilot project to develop ‘Place Frameworks’ for Largs and Saltcoats.

The regeneration blueprint has also formed the basis for allocating cash-secured through other means, including the Scottish Government’s Place-Based Investment Programme and Vacant and Derelict Land Fund.

A £1.26 million allocation has also been handed to the council from the Scottish Government’s £325 million five-year Place Based Investment Programme, which backs community-led regeneration of town centres.

Kilwinning will also benefit from a £60,000 sum set aside to fund a Place Framework document, to identify physical improvements and support recovery and development of the town centre.

Councillors were also told that ‘walk arounds’ will be organised in their ward with members of the regeneration team to discuss sites and funding opportunities.
Councillor Alan Hill queried whether staff had investigated a “Plan B” option if UK Government funding pots are “oversubscribed”.

He was told that officers “have been preparing in the background” for developments from the UK Government: “knowing that if a decision was forthcoming, it would be a quick turnaround and a quick need for expenditure quickly of funding”.

She added that they could explore locality funding at the councillor’s suggestion.
Irvine East Councillor, Marie Burns, added: “This is an issue that has been raised by members across the council, hence the reason why the committee asked for this.
“I’m sure we’ll all welcome the walkabouts that you mentioned because we obviously have concerns in our own wards.”