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A new transport hub in Oban, a new hybrid Jura ferry, and better roads for Dunbeg and Mull are just a few of the ambitious infrastructure projects the council could bid for from a £5B ‘levelling up’ fund.
The UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund (UKLUF) will see local authorities compete for a share of £4.8 billion capital funding, which will support investment projects with up to £20 million, and larger transport projects up to £50m.
At Thursday’s full Argyll and Bute Council meeting, councillors agreed plans to further develop a range of projects across the region, with the main focus placed on regeneration and transport initiatives.
As part of their £50m Transport Bid, the council is proposing three projects. The first, Whisky Islands, would build on the major growth which Islay and Jura have seen in their whisky industry. The scheme would involve investment in the islands’ infrastructure, primarily the local road network linking both ferry terminals on Islay, and an electric bus service.
It would also entail replacement of the current Jura Ferry with a larger hybrid or electric ferry, together with road improvements on Jura, further complementing CMal’s planned investment at Port Ellen.
The second project, Lorn Economic Growth Zone, would encompass a variety of schemes including: development of a new transport integrated hub in the town centre; transport capacity improvements within Oban; investment in road infrastructure at Dunbeg and between Salen and Tobermory on Mull; a hydrogen bus service; and, investment in Oban Airport to help develop a potential drone hub.
The third scheme, Connected Helensburgh, would centre on improved transport connectivity for HMNB Clyde. This would include completion of the Dumbarton to Rosneath Cycle Way, development of a hydrogen/electric bus service and the purchase of buses to serve the community and naval personnel.
A possible link to Glasgow Airport, together with the development of an additional rail halt at Garelochead, is being considered. The plans also include structural improvements to Helensburgh Wooden Pier and installation of a modern berthing facility, helping to complete the investment in Helensburgh Waterfront.
For the £20m Regeneration Bid, the council has proposed an overarching theme, titled Western Seaboard – Marine Gateways, which includes Rothesay and Dunoon as well as the Ardrishaig/Lochgilphead and the Crinan Corridor.
The Ardrishaig/Lochgilphead – Crinan Corridor project would include regeneration to improve marine connectivity, public realm upgrades and further development on vacant sites such as new housing and/or employment generating uses including new holiday accommodation.
For Rothesay, the main element of the project would be restoring and finding a new purpose for the former Royal Hotel as well as public realm works, restoration of the town centre’s historical features and net zero initiatives such as electric vehicle chargers, cycle parking, expanded pedestrian space and harbour side environmental improvements.
For Dunoon, the focus would be on the town’s A-listed pier with a further phase of restoration and possible demolition of unused features. The aim would also be to create a new berthing facility as part of the pier’s regeneration as well as improvements to the town centre/waterfront public realm and a link to the emerging Dunoon Project entrance at West Bay.
This would augment existing regeneration activities such as the completed Queens Hall development together with the Dunoon CARs initiative and Cycle Bothy project.
All bids will be subject to possible changes in emphasis as the feasibility works progress.
Council Leader, Robin Currie said: ‘The council has successfully delivered a wide range of ambitious capital projects of various sizes in recent years all of which have been aimed at delivering on many of our local priorities for the region.
‘The Levelling Up Fund presents a great opportunity to build further on what has already been achieved and the projects are ones that we couldn’t otherwise afford to do. They have great potential to transform our communities.’