West Dunbartonshire Council’s new Dumbarton office has been named the best regeneration project in Britain.
The multi-million pound project, believd to have cost more than £15 million – at 16 Church Street transformed the site into a modern and efficient town centre base while retaining the William Leiper-designed Grade A listed façade.
The building was nominated in the regeneration category at the prestigious Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) national awards, following a win at the regional awards earlier this year.
Since opening, the state-of-the-art facility – which accommodates 500 Council staff – has improved access to services for residents, brought economic benefits to businesses in the town and brought savings to the Council in the region of £400,000 per year.
The conservation project, which was supported by Historic Environment Scotland, has also ensured Dumbarton’s heritage is preserved.
The honour is only awarded to a scheme that can demonstrate outstanding best practice and an exemplary commitment to adding value to its local area.
The building has however been widely criticised as not being fit for purpose because the public gallery is inadequate to cope with the number of members of the public who turn up for meetings, particularly when contentious matters are on the agenda.
There have also been complaints about the siting of the public gallery – it is impossible to identify or to hear people participating in the meeting from there and therefore not fit for purpose. Social workers who are housed there have complained and asked to be moved because the space allocated to them does not afford the privacy require to do their job.
A recent move by Cllr David McBride (Labour) was thrown out by the SNP administration when he asked the SNP administration to make the necessary changes to eradicate these problems.
At the ceremony last Friday, judges said the transformation of the former Dumbarton Academy building – which has modern and efficient offices at the back – had brought new vitality and spending power to the town centre.
Since the building opened, development of adjacent sites has begun including building of new homes in the town centre and a new Lidl store.
Councillor Iain McLaren, pictured left, Convener for Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “I am delighted to see that the hard work and dedication that has gone into this project has seen it recognised as the best in the whole of the UK.
“We are extremely proud of Dumbarton’s rich heritage and Church Street has been sympathetically conserved to ensure that we did not lose even a small part of that.
“On top of that, this building has also given a huge economic boost to the local area. Since we opened our doors to the community, the difference in the town centre has been clearly visible and the benefits of this extra footfall are being felt by our traders and businesses.”
Councillor Marie McNair, Vice Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, added: “A big congratulations must go to the team involved in delivering this ambitious project.
“The number of awards it has received to date shows the care that has gone into this project from start to finish.”
Speaking at the event, national RICS judge Malcolm Young FRICS, said: “The West Dunbartonshire Council staff can now enjoy more efficient, collaborative working while the build brings new vitality and spending power to the town centre.
“The project has skillfully merged old with new while maintaining functionality and purpose, and the added value social benefits of being located on the high street have already attracted interest from across Europe.”
The RICS national award is the sixth the facility has received to date, with Church Street also picking up their regional Regeneration Project of the Year; being named Regeneration Project of the Year in the Scottish Property Awards; awarded Corporate Workplace Award and the Innovation Award in the British Council for Offices Awards, and winning the award for Architecture: Regeneration at the Scottish Design Awards.
The Council worked with Hub West Scotland on the new office, with Lendlease as the main contractor and Keppie Design as architects, and also benefited from the input of the Conservation Architect Andrew Wright OBE.