AMBITIOUS plans to regenerate Kirkintilloch town centre should start in early 2013.
That was the message from East Dunbartonshire Council’s head of development and enterprise Thomas Glen and council leader Rhondda Geekie, as the town centre masterplan was publicly exhibited for the first time at Kirkintilloch Canal Festival.
But they urged caution as parts of the plan, in particular a scheme to restore the dilapidated town hall, will be reliant on external funding.
Councillor Geekie told the Herald that the masterplan was a continuation of the work carried out by the now-defunct Kirkintilloch’s Initiative (KI).
She said: “Back then we went to the people of Kirkintilloch and asked them what their priorities were.
“We were told that a leisure centre and link road came top and so that was what KI delivered first.
“At that point the town centre, while still thought of as important, was further down the list.”
KI stopped short of delivering a promised arts and cultural centre at Southbank Marina, a failure which Councillor Geekie says was “unfortunate, but down to the economic climate”, and now it is hoped that a £4.75million investment in the town hall will provide similar facilities.
It’s the “jewel in the crown” of the ambitious scheme, but East Dunbartonshire Council does not have the cash to go it alone and will have to rely on several ongoing grant and funding applications.
Mr Glen said: “We are waiting for the outcome of applications which are being submitted, which means that by March of next year we will be in a better position to say whether the town hall project will be possible.”
He warned: “Getting the money to redevelop it is obviously an important first step, but we also need to make a business case to ensure it can be sustainable.”
And Councillor Geekie added that if the funding applications were not successful they would have to look at other options.
She said: “We can’t let it go on forever. If we are unsuccessful in getting funding in a year or 18 months, we will have to draw a line and take a look at the decision again.”
The masterplan also includes improved access and parking, a new public space at Barleybank, new walkways and better signage - much of which can go ahead in the coming months.
Mr Glen said: “Some of the earlier projects we would like to have started at the start of the next calendar year, such as the parking and access project at Barleybank.
“We want to engage people and to do that we need them to see the work being started.”
It’s hoped that the changes could stimulate growth in the town centre, increasing footfall and attracting more businesses.
Councillor Geekie said: “We often get criticised for the lack of variety of shops in Kirkintilloch, but we don’t necessarily have a huge amount of control over this.
“We have been trying to do something for some time, but it can be very challenging.
“We need to bring people into the town centre and everything should follow from there.
“For instance, it’s been a great success attracting a restaurant to the former Eagle Inn. Town centres have changed over the years away from the small independent retailers.
“We need to look more at the evening economy and tourism and find a new role for the town.”
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