First look at £10m plans to regenerate Dumbarton’s Artizan Centre

The £20 million allocated by the Tory government in London to regenerate Dumbarton Town Centre has suddenly been halved.

West Dunbartonshire Council says the now £10 million project, largely funded by Boris Johnston’s Levelling Up Fund, “would see the rundown 70s precinct overhauled,” according to the Council who should know it was built and officially opened by Secretary of State Willie Ross a decade earlier in the Sixties.

They speculate that it will “and potentially become home to the town’s health centre” – and idea first put forward here in The Democrat – as well as affordable homes and a retirement development, a town square and enhanced retail facilities.

Plans for redevelopment of the Artizan Centre in Dumbarton
A town square would be at the heart of the new development.

In a media release which appears only to have been sent to the Lennox Herald – the curmudgeonly Council refuses to talk directly to The Democrat – “ambitious plans detailing how Dumbarton’s Artizan Centre could be transformed have been revealed – with a councillor saying it’s vital time is taken to make sure the proposal works for the town”.

The Council, which appears to have been sadly lacking in any ideas as to how they themselves should tackle the project and have been canvassing widely for assistance to come up with something that will some way to please the electorate.

The artist’s impression of what their highly paid planners and consultants have come up with looks very much like cauld kale het up.

Artist’s impressions of how the development could look are revealed for the first time this week and appear to have been given only to the Lennox..

Members of West Dunbartonshire Council’s Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development committee (IRED) will discuss the proposals at a public meeting in Church Street on Wednesday (November 1).

The councillors will be asked to approve new plans to be submitted for planning permission, and to begin the procurement process for the first phase of works.

This seems an incredibly short time for those drawing up the new plans to have taken into account and given full consideration to them, although the haven’t said if there are any that fall into that category..

They revealed that they successfully applied for Levelling Up Funding in 2021 and “were awarded £19.9 million to deliver projects that enhance Dumbarton town centre with more than £10 million earmarked for the Artizan Centre”.

That is half the money first announced and they have additionally announced, quietly of course, that West Dunbartonshire Council will be putting £2.2 million towards the plans, which is about a tenth of the £23 million they have now committed (so far) towards bringing the polluted former Esso terminal site at Bowling.

The Bowling site is speculated to bring more than 1,000 jobs to that site if and when it is ever completed and it means that cash-strapped West Dunbartonshire Council will be supporting Exxon, one of the richest companies in the world oil industry.

Meanwhile, the town centre proposal up for planning permission includes the acquisition, part demolition and preparation for redevelopment of the Artizan Centre, as well as a project to turn the historic Glencairn House into a library and museum.

They Artizan redevelopment would be delivered in three phases, the first of which would get underway next year.

However the Glencairn House project has now become the target for increasing public criticism, which has gathered momentum because of extremely unpopular plans to close Balloch Library and move it to the primary school campus across the street.

There is growing opposition also to the Labour administration moving the main Dumbarton library from Strathleven Place to the High Street, an idea which came initially from the Opposition SNP.

There will be a further public demonstration against the Balloch move outside the primary campus at 6.15 pm tonight (Monday). This follows a refusal by the Council a hearing at West Dunbartonshire Council’s monthly meeting in Dumbarton last Wednesday.

Plans for redevelopment of the Artizan Centre in Dumbarton
The plans would see the Artizan Centre site extensively redeveloped. 

Meanwhile, the report to the planning committee this week  says that the first phase “will see public realm works including creation of a new public square with hard and soft landscaping, public play areas for multiple ages, and improved pedestrian routes through the site.”

It adds: “This will form the centre of the Artizan redevelopment and reinforce the Railway to Rock connectivity.”

Part of that project meant painting the roadway at the Station Road entrance to Dumbarton Central Station, which is seen by many as a useless.

The initial phase of the development will also see the area’s substation relocated, improvements made to the existing facade of the buildings and temporary green spaces installed on vacant areas of land.

Phases two and three, scheduled for 2026 onwards, are where the major transformation will begin.

If the Council plans are approved, which seems likely since the Labour majority are expected to steam-roller them through,  the first works will see a 42 bed ‘later living’ block built at the rear of the development – backing onto St Mary’s Way.

It would be followed, funding permitting, by a health centre on land between College Way and Risk Street.

Allotment space for residents of the new housing is also outlined as a possible option for a section of the site. Allotments in the Town Centre. What happens to the previously sacrosanct lawns of Dumbarton Bowling Club is not disclosed. And there is nothing about the future of The Rialto cinema and bingo hall.

Under ‘long-term possibilities’ – set for 2028 onwards – there are plans for a mix of one and two bed apartments and two storey maisonettes.

More affordable homes would also be built on the east section of the site, with the report adding: “Green spaces open up connectivity to the Denny Theatre and Concord community centre for a wide range of potentially active uses such as outdoor cafe seating, performance space or allotments.”

If Dumbartonians drink any more coffee then there will never again be a need for diuretics in the town.

Councillor David McBride, Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie and Councillor Gurpreet Singh Johal at the Artizan Centre
Councillor David McBride, Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie and Councillor Gurpreet Singh Johal at the Artizan Centre, a photo call to which The Democrat was not invited to attend.

Dumbarton councillor, and chair of IRED, Labour’s David McBride said: “We have recently held two rounds of public consultation in person and online with the redevelopment of the Artizan Centre.

“I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to get involved in the consultation for the redevelopment of our town centre.

“We don’t get the opportunity often to make a real difference to the town centre and we must take our time and get this right.

“While we will have plans going ahead it’s a long term project and we must be flexible and react to changes throughout the development process.

“At these early stages, we have support for housing and mixed use units for retail, hospitality and community use.

“I am also delighted there is a desire for a new health centre to be located within the town centre.

“While this will be subject to securing funding, updating the health centre in the heart of the town will increase footfall which can only bring benefits that may provide an opportunity to attract and retain town centre business.  This is just the beginning of a long process.

“There will be early actions, but we intend to work with residents and get this right for the long term.

“The council will soon seek planning permission for these proposals which will also consider representations from the Dumbarton public and business community.”

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