WITH Stena’s move from Stranraer seven miles up Loch Ryan to Cairnryan this week, Labour’s Stranraer and North Rhins councillor Willie Scobie has said there will be a “gaping hole right at the heart of Stranraer.”
With the move of all staff and services to the new £200 million terminal north of the village, councillor Scobie said the fabric of Stranraer will be changed forever.
He added: “This is a major moment in the history of our town and how the Council and Government respond will make or break us. There will be a gaping hole right at the heart of Stranraer when that last ferry leaves. Stranraer has always been a ferry town, it’s in our blood and ingrained in our community. That is now set to change and the challenge is how we pick ourselves up and move on.
“The Government and Council are dragging their heels with redevelopment of the waterfront and local people are worried that Stranraer will be abandoned. My hope was that redevelopment work on the waterfront would start as soon as the last ferry left, but that’s not going to happen. Much of the blame for this delay lies with the SNP Government, who downgraded the significance of the waterfront regeneration scheme and cut £8 million from it. We’ve waiting nervously for when the last ferry will leave and now this day is finally here people are calling for a clear direction of what is coming next.”
But Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce are urging people to take advantage of the opportunities which are opening up for marine leisure activities in Stranraer with the closure fof the ferry terminal.
The Chamber believe that recent developments including the new marina at Stranraer are just the start to creating a new identity for the town as a hub for marine leisure activities such as sailing, diving and windsurfing following Stena’s relocation.
President of the Chamber, Peter Jeal, said this week that Stena’s relocation creates many opportunities for Stranraer - but only if the business community seizes them.
He said: “Loch Ryan represents a fantastic natural asset. Dumfries and Galloway Council’s investment in the first phase of a marina have demonstrated their commitment to developing the town as a marine leisure hub and it’s a position which this Chamber fully supports.”
A council spokesperson said that the Stranraer Waterfront Urban Design Strategy and Masterplan (November 2009) set out a vision for Stranraer to develop an attractive seaside town for residents, businesses and visitors.
A spokeswoman said: “Stena is still a major employer in the area, but unfortunately Stranraer could not facilitate their new line of bigger ships which need an extra 1.5 metres of water in which to manoeuvre. The move is an opportunity to develop the east pier which could include new housing, business, retail and leisure developments. It will take private and community partnerships to make this vision possible.
“One of the objectives is to turn Stranraer and Loch Ryan into a centre of excellence for marine leisure and tourism. To this end a marina has been built and current developments include the addition of a new shore block which should be completed in 2012. The new building will include a permanent harbour master’s office, as well as changing rooms and washing and drying facilities.
“Work has already taken place to improve links with the waterfront and the town centre. Scottish Government (TCRF) funding was used to transform the heart of the town into a multi purpose event space, complete with public art. The Castle of St John has also been restored with the help of Heritage lottery funding.”
The spokeswoman denied rumours that Asda have been looking at the waterfront site for a new supermarket.