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Council Leader provides weekly update

Posted on 20 Nov 2020

Last week was a busy one at North Ayrshire Council with our Cabinet meeting on the Tuesday and Full Council taking place the next day.

On the Cabinet agenda was our updated Strategic Housing Investment Plan. Once again, my Cabinet reaffirmed our commitment to delivering the biggest investment in new council housing in generations. Our plans for 1575 new council houses will mean new, high-quality, energy efficient council homes in every part of North Ayrshire, including our Islands.

It represents an investment of around £240milliion, over £150million of which is investment by the Council, to help provide affordable housing for residents as well as to regenerate our communities.

Our investment in housing is so ambitious that if it was matched in every local authority area in Scotland, the country would build around 68,000 new social houses. That’s effectively double the Scottish Government’s current target of 35,000 – which demonstrates the scale of our house building programme.

Our investment in housing is a key strand of our Community Wealth Building agenda and another report at Cabinet emphasised the progress we are making on using Community Wealth Building principles in designing council projects.

Lochshore was previously the site of the Glengarnock Steelworks which, at its height, employed around 3000 people. The works closed for good in 1985 and the 248 hectares site, which is largely owned by Scottish Enterprise, has not been developed since.

I am delighted that, following years of hard work, our Cabinet has approved a first phase development at Lochshore that will commence in Spring 2021 and will see the construction of a new multi-million-pound visitor and community hub.

There will be associated investments in active travel routes, play facilities, walking and leisure routes and, given the scale of the site, investment to deliver at least 10hectares of tree planting, kick-starting our tree planting programme that will see around 108,000 trees planted across 40hectares as part of our target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

 The development at Lochshore aligns with our Community Wealth Building aspirations to maximise the use of our land and assets, and it is great that one of the other Anchor Institutions in our Community Wealth Building work, Scottish Enterprise, have made a major contribution to the project by transferring ownership of the site to North Ayrshire Council at nil value.

In the first phase of the development, the local rugby club will be the anchor tenant of the hub but there are many more Community Wealth Building opportunities to explore in future development phases at Lochshore such as the community taking ownership or leasing sections of land, allocating land for community food growing or community woodland and also scope for considering mechanisms such as a community land trust to give the community control over parts of the site.

 Development at Lochshore is good news for the Garnock Valley and we are ambitious for every community in North Ayrshire. That’s why last week we also launched a consultation on our new Regeneration Delivery Plan.

The plan will develop a place-based approach to regenerating our towns, placing a greater priority on community-led regeneration than ever before. We want the plan to be a means of delivering on our twin priorities of building local wealth and tackling climate change by reaching net-zero by 2030.

 The consultation will allow local people, and community groups, to outline the regeneration priorities in their local area, including identifying those hotspot areas where vacant buildings or derelict land let down our communities. The Council is demonstrating our renewed willingness to intervene where private owners won’t, such as the recent purchases of both the Kings’ Arms in Irvine and the former police station in Largs’ with the intention of converting them to council housing. Via the consultation, local people can help us decide how to prioritise our resources when considering such interventions in the future.

The Council is also about to launch our budget engagement for next year’s budget. Whilst we will not find out what budget the Scottish Government is giving us until the new year, the engagement will again enable local people to tell us what their priority service areas are.

 I want to emphasise how much importance I place on local people participating in the Council’s decision-making processes. I know that up and down the country, there is a general feeling by communities that government, including local government, do not listen to their views. But we have been trying to take a different approach in North Ayrshire since I became Council Leader.

 Whether it be putting the grounds maintenance budget out to participatory budgeting, creating our innovative Community Investment Fund or the vote we gave residents at the High-Rise flats in Irvine and Saltcoats on future plans for the buildings, the Council I lead have shown that we will place power in the hands of local people.

 I want to expand on these approaches to citizen participation, getting more residents involved in council decision-making and building greater trust between our communities and the Council. So please, do take a few minutes to get involved in our current consultations on the Shaping North Ayrshire website and for our part, we promise we will listen to the views of local people when it comes to making decisions.