Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown is urging the local community to get behind a council bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve Stranraer Town Centre.
The bid is being developed by the council as part of an ambitious £3.5 m plan that could see some of Stranraer’s most important buildings within the town’s Conservation Area transformed.
The local MP has met with the HLF on a number of occasions to discuss concerns over the fact that few projects in the region had benefited from HLF grants in the past. Since then HLF have made Dumfries and Galloway a priority region for investment and have awarded major grants to the Dock Park in Dumfries and given provisional support to plans for a new art gallery in Kirkcudbright. Russell Brown believes that the project in Stranraer is a perfect fit for support both from HLF and Historic Scotland, however he believes that it is vital that the community get behind the project to help secure support from HLF.
Mr Brown said: “I have met with the team from the Heritage Lottery Fund several times now to discuss concerns over why so few projects in Dumfries and Galloway had secured funding from HLF. I think the quality of some of the bids in the past were a major issue but HLF have now made our region a priority area for investment. This doesn’t give us any guarantees but it does mean for example, we receive support when developing proposals and bids for funding. This has helped secure investment for the Dock Park in Dumfries as well as provisional backing for the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery. It would be more than the icing on the cake if funding could be secured for the regeneration of Stranraer.
“The bid is obviously still at a relatively early stage and the council won’t know until early next year whether it has made it to the second stage. It is also a really competitive market out there with only around £14 to £15 million in total available for bids from the whole of the UK. However, there is no doubt that one of the criteria HLF will look at is the extent to which the project has the backing of the community. I was pleased to see that representatives of the business community, as well as Stranraer and District Local History Trust have been playing a key role in developing the bid and were there to make the case to HLF. The local community were very much behind the bid for the Dock Park and the same is the case for Kirkcudbright. It will be a tough battle to secure funding and almost impossible unless the community get right behind this bid. I have lost track of the number of times people in Stranraer have said to me how sad it is to see the way the George Hotel has falling into state of disrepair or how they would like to see other historic buildings in the town centre regenerated. This is a golden opportunity to achieve that and we need to grab it with both hands”.
If successful, the Council led plan would be to target the B listed George Hotel and the old Harbour Masters Office which would both undergo major restoration works. Stranraer Museum and the Golden Cross Public House would undergo improvements to their exteriors and the restoration of historical features. In addition a Facade Improvement scheme will be introduced for commercial properties within the Stranraer Conservation areas. The Council have committed to match funding any grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a bid will also be made for funding from Historic Scotland.
Last week representatives of the Council along with groups such as the Stranraer and District Local History Trust and Stranraer Business Improvement District met with representatives of Heritage Lottery Fund in Stranraer to discuss the bid.