POLITICS: UNIONIST £20 MILLION POISED TO BRING NEW DEVELOPMENT TO DUMBARTON ARTIZAN CENTRE

Jackie Baillie MSP, Martin Docherty Hughes MP and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Aerial picture by Sean Davenport of Myre Media.

EXCLUSIVE by BILL HEANEY

Labour MSP Jackie Bailie has welcomed a new move which could see Dumbarton Town Centre being bought back from the owners for around £20 million and redevloped into something more attractive from the concrete monstrosity which currently exists there.

Part of the proposed project would also include the conversion of Glencairn House across the road in Dumbarton High Street  into a library.

MSP Baillie commented today: “I  welcome any investment into Dumbarton High Street and the £22.1m Levelling Up Fund is great news as it is money that has not been available to the council previously.

“This will allow the council to invest in much needed town centre regeneration and the upgrading of Glencairn house, better connections and upgrading  between the High Street and Dumbarton Central train station,  the waterfront path and improvements to the Artizan centre.

“The only concern is that it does rely on several external factors and there is no certainty that the owners of the Artizan will sell the site back to the council,  but on the face of it if this goes ahead then it would be really positive news for the high street.”

Dumbarton’s Artizan Town Centre has been an eyesore for decades.

Althought the Council administration is SNP and the Nationalists have control of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, it would be Conservative Party at UK level who would make the money available from the Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Fund.

Councillors will be asked at a committee meeting this week to put together a bid to the UK Levelling Up
Fund (LUF) and Community Renewal Fund (CRF) by the round one deadline submissions for this, which is 18 June 2021.

Council officers have recommended they approve the proposed bid for Dumbarton Town Regeneration for LUF and: Note the opportunity to develop a bid for a major transportation project in later rounds of the LUF Programme;

• Approves West Dunbartonshire Council’s approach to the delivery of
the Community Renewal Fund and recommended list of eligible
projects to be submitted to the UK Government for second stage
assessment; and
• Authorise the commencement of procurement processes relating to
the projects in the Dumbarton Town Regeneration bid.

In the latest Budget, the UK ChancellorRishi Sunak  announced further detail on competitive funds which are now available to local authorities in Scotland, including West Dunbartshire Council.

The Levelling Up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund. Guidance on the Fund was published in March, and further clarifications issued by Government during the following weeks. As such, Councils had only weeks to work up bids, less time than would normally be taken to develop projects of this nature.

The Levelling Up Fund (LUF) is a capital fund to address systemic weaknesses in the economies of the UK’s towns and cities. Bids are invited by 18 June 2021 for round 1 of LUF which focuses on infrastructure investment in local transport schemes, urban regeneration projects and cultural assets. The Fund is jointly managed by HM Treasury (HMT) and UK Government departments.

The Community Renewal Fund is a revenue fund. It will act as precursor to the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund which is due to be launched next year to replace EU Structural Funds. It is focused on innovative pilot projects, with the potential to be scaled up and addresses disadvantages and boost productivity. The Community Renewal Fund has four national investment priorities:

Skills: including work-based training, retraining and digital skills/inclusion. Local business: including supporting entrepreneurs, innovation and de[1]carbonisation.

Communities and Place: including feasibility studies for net zero projects, opportunities for culture-led regeneration, green spaces and rural connectivity.

Supporting people into employment: including addressing barriers to employment, raising aspirations, and basic skills.

Levelling Up Fund:  Funding of £800M is being made available to Scottish Local Authorities, with West Dunbartonshire Council being a Category one  (highest identified need) Local Authority.  Where appropriate, UK Government will seek advice from the Scottish Government at the project shortlisting stage, including their views on deliverability and alignment with existing provision. Capacity funding of £125,000, anticipated in June 2021, will be allocated to all local authorities in Scotland to support development of bids for round 2 or subsequent rounds. LUF will focus on projects requiring up to £20m.

One successful bid per MP [in West Dunbartonshire that is Martin Docherty Hughes] area is allowed over the duration of the LUF programme to 2023/24. LUF submissions to subsequent rounds are acceptable following an unsuccessful bid.

Having one MP aligned with our local authority boundary, the Council can only receive a maximum of one LUF award of up to £20M. Exceptionally, there is also scope to bid for larger high value transport projects and once more for a major transportation project up to a value of £50m.

Again as above, having one MP, the maximum number of awards that WDC could receive would be one. The major transportation bids will be subject to a more detailed business case process and will need to score highly in the assessment process to be successful. In both cases securing the support of the local MP is advised but not essential.

The LUF Bids can be submitted as a package of two or three projects, as long as their component elements are aligned and represent a coherent set of interventions. There will be at least two more funding rounds over the duration of the programme until 2023/24. The criteria and priorities may change in subsequent rounds and early indications are that the next round could be a soon as October 2021. Bids to round onemust demonstrate that they are partly deliverable during 2021/22 and completed by 2023/24, therefore favouring shovel ready projects that are at an advanced stage of development.

Recent discussions between the Council and the Civil Service confirm that successful projects in the first round will be assessed against the criteria and will meet at least one of the three headline priorities. With a short turnaround between being provided with the details of the Funds at the end of March and the 18 June deadline, officers produced a range of prospective bids that could potentially meet LUF eligibility criteria and assessed which would be at a sufficiently advanced stage to submit a bid in round 1.

This process entailed drawing up a long list of nine prospective bids and agreeing a scoring mechanism that reflected LUF criteria as well as Council’s corporate priorities. With input from senior staff across all relevant council services, local projects were then ranked 1st to 9th, with Dumbarton Town Centre Regeneration ranked number 1 and North Clyde Riverbank including Scottish Marine Technology Park ranked number 2.

The recommended bid for the continued regeneration of Dumbarton town centre will complement and consolidate previous investment in the town centre and advance the Council’s Town Centre First objective for the town.

In line with the provision to apply for a cohesive set of interventions, the bid will have three components: Repurposing of B listed Glencairn House for a library, museum and community purposes as reported to this committee on 21 August 2019; acquisition of the partially vacant Artizan Centre followed by part[1]demolition and preparation of the site for redevelopment and:

Completing “Connecting Dumbarton” a project that will provide active travel connections between the town centre and Dumbarton Central train station to achieve a connection to the rear of existing Artizan centre and link to connections then through to the new Waterfront Path.

In the event of the application being successful, a proposed development plan for the Artizan Centre site will be reported. Connecting Dumbarton has been widely consulted on during 2020 despite the constraints of the pandemic.

Key elements include better definition of the route into the town centre and rerouting of the national cycle network; enhancements to underpasses; introduction of quality and durable materials; landscaping and tree planting; clear signage; seating and rest points; feature lighting and artwork.

The project design has been advanced over the past year in collaboration with funding partner Sustrans who have awarded Places for Everyone funding towards the design of the project and are expected to contribute to the construction costs of the project, which will be delivered in 3 phases.

With the design feasibility of the repurposing of Glencairn House as a library and museum already underway and Connecting Dumbarton designs at an advanced stage, the bid to LUF is capable of demonstrating expenditure this financial year on project development costs, and in the case of Connecting Dumbarton, potentially demonstrating part-delivery.

The Artizan Centre is currently being marketed for sale, and an option for the Council to buy with conditions is being progressed with the owner’s agent, and this will be the basis of a future report. The three components together are considered to be deliverable by end of the LUF programme on 31 March 24.

The total cost of the LUF programme of works for Dumbarton is estimated at £22.1M, £2.2M of is proposed to be secured from Council and Sustrans,

Glencairn House has an approved £1M from the Regeneration Fund, as reported to IRED on 21 August 2019, and the balance of £1.2M is expected to be secured through work with Sustrans leaving £19.9M to be requested from LUF.

The programme is comprised of the following costs, with an optimism bias of 30% added across all three projects, which is an appropriate contingency for regeneration and development projects at this early stage of development.

Cultural Services-led repurposing and extension of B listed Glencairn House for central education and heritage facility (£8.45M).  Acquisition and part demolition of the Artizan Centre, masterplanning, landscaping, preparation for redevelopment and improvements to community and cultural facilities (£10.4M).  Connecting Dumbarton to better integrate town centre with station and to promote active travel (£3.25M):

The proposed package of the regeneration interventions in Dumbarton meets all three of the Government’s priorities of local transportation and connectivity, town centre regeneration and cultural regeneration. The bid can demonstrate progress by the end of the financial year 2021/22, and in line with recent advice from the Civil Service that confirmed their expectation that bids for this round will be fully compliant with LUF’s headline priorities, is therefore considered to have the greatest opportunity of being successful in attracting LUF funding support. Prospective bids were also considered for Alexandria, Balloch and Clydebank but the scoring reflected that the proposed projects were not sufficiently developed.

College Street improvements on route to Dumbarton Central railway station.

2 comments

  1. Take more than £22 million to restore the High Street.

    And of course the Council isn’t the most effective organisation to get value for money.

    Anyway, that said political money like this, where the Scottish Parliament is being by passed through Westminster directly funding councils is the start of the usurping and downgrading of the Scottish Parliament

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