£63K town boost delights Oban business group

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Oban town centre has been given a boost after being awarded £63,000 towards a series of projects.

In a further spur for the local community, nearly £50,000 in support is also heading to Mull.

Councillors for Argyll and Bute sanctioned the awards at meeting of the full council on Thursday October 22.

The latest funding is the largest single award the Business Improvement District has received to date and plans are in place to ensure the capital projects are in place for March 31, 2021. The award comes on the back of a £44,000 award for street signage that will be implemented within the same timescales. There was a delay in implementation due to the Covid pandemic.

The primary award is for Business Improvement Grants with a total budget of £28,000 including a contribution from BID4Oban. These grants have been successful with £62,000 having been invested since 2012. This funding is available to businesses to improve their business signs or shop front grants. There is an expectation that local contractors should be used for any works. Guidelines are available on the BID4Oban website.

Andy Spence, chief executive of the business group BID4Oban, said the town was ‘absolutely delighted’ to receive the funding.

He said: ‘It will make a significant impact to the town and give us a fighting chance for the start of next year’s tourist season as well as improving the ambiance and facilities in the town.

‘It’s going to enable us to do a lot more projects than we originally planned,’ he said.

‘One of the caveats is that any contracts for work have to be in by March 31, so it is projects that are going to happen pretty much immediately.’

The new award will see improvements made to the approaches and entrance to McCaig’s Tower with local voluntary group Keep Oban Beautiful. Plans are in place to cut back overgrown foliage, replace existing planting schemes with sustainable low maintenance plants. Provision has also been made for the installation of picnic benches.

Additional funding has been for new welcome signs to the entrance of the town on the A85 and A816, as well as the North Pier Pontoons. An upgrade and extension of the towns wifi system will also be completed linking it to the new Oban Town Directory. One of the most challenging projects is an award to provide waste disposal solutions for the many campervans and caravans that visit the town.

The shopfront works project also sees £28,000 awarded to Tobermory where again property owners will be required to contribute.

The final instalment of the Oban, Lorn and the Isles share of government funding incorporates £20,000 towards a vital £315,000 flood gate plan for Tobermory.

The report before councillors said because of the need to have the funding allocated before the end of the financial year in 2021, the council planned to use it to prime ‘already established’ programmes.

It also wanted to back projects where potential match funding is in place and there are staff/community resources in place to deliver them quickly.

Council executive director Kirsty Flanagan said: ‘Due to the immediate need to build resilience within the economy, the aim of the fund is to support construction activity within town centres.

‘A key constraint of the fund is therefore the tight timeline to physically deliver capital projects within the current financial year, or at the very least, agree a signed contract for the works or be started on site by April 1, 2021.

‘Projects have been chosen to support the viability of our town centres and where possible linked to either a town centre action plan that has often been taken forward through a making places initiative.

‘To achieve a range of capital projects that will make a meaningful difference there is a need to make quick decisions and link where possible to established programmes of work.’