Wick town centre regeneration gets huge cash injection
A FUNDING package worth in excess of £650,000 is in place to help in the regeneration of Wick town centre.
Wick and East Caithness councillors Raymond Bremner and Nicola Sinclair revealed the details at meeting of key stakeholders on Monday night.
The funds are committed for a range of projects designed to breathe life back into the area, including:
- £200,000 to turn the riverside car park into a travel hub, including additional spaces, electric vehicle charging points, a new cycle shelter, a new bus shelter, new signage, CCTV security and landscaping
- £225,000 for the purchase, demolition and site clearance of derelict buildings
- £200,000 in-kind value of Sustrans Scotland's street design programme, which will create new designs for the High Street and Bridge Street areas
- An £18,000 options appraisal into suitable use for the former Woolworths building
- A £20,000 refurbishment of public toilets.
Councillor Sinclair said: "This project has moved from an initial proposal stage in April to a position of having hundreds of thousands of pounds secured in just eight months.
"It’s the biggest investment in Wick town centre in decades and it specifically addresses the issues this community has been raising for many years – traffic congestion, derelict buildings, empty shop units and a pedestrian precinct that feels cold and unwelcoming.
"It has not been easy and we’re taking some knocks along the way but I hope people can see the progress we have made already. We now need the businesses, public sector partners and wider community to champion these projects and approach it with a positive attitude."
Work on the riverside car park is expected to be completed by Christmas and has been funded by Highland Council and the Town Centre Fund in partnership with HiTrans, the Highland and Islands Transport Partnership.
Councillors could not reveal the specific derelict buildings targeted in the regeneration plan for legal and commercial reasons, but told the audience in the Norseman Hotel they expect to have an update in the early new year.
When demolition and clearance is complete the sites will be transferred to the community for £1 each. A new development trust has been created which will work with the community to decide on a future use for the sites.
Alastair Ferrier, vice-chairman of the new trust, took the opportunity to introduce himself at the meeting and called on the public to join the trust as members, as well as proposing a website to market the town’s retail and tourist offering more effectively.
If this is the progress we can manage in six months, I’d like to see where we will be within the year.
John Bogle, secretary of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council, provided an update on the options appraisal into the former Woolworths building, and stated that the most likely outcome is for a mixed use community and business space. The report by Alan Jones Associates is due in January.
Councillors also took away a number of actions from the audience, including:
- Improving the surface of lanes leading to High Street and Bridge Street
- Lobbying for more retail services
- Inviting planning officers to a follow-up meeting
- Ensuring the local voice is heard in the forthcoming charging consultation
- Exploring ways to maintain cleanliness in the town centre and ensuring new signage promotes the town
On parking charges, councillors reiterated that no decision will be made until the full public response has been considered.
Councillor Bremner said: “From where we were six months ago with a blank sheet and history of no action, we have now realised an increased potential investment of £656,000 and growing. We have started to see the actual physical regeneration of areas of the town centre get under way and by the time of the new tourist season we should have most, if not all, of the new investment in that area realised.
"This will provide a focal point for tourists, a more welcoming and more aesthetically pleasing area that gives a good first impression of the town. It will also improve the whole facility and service of the area in respect of transport and connectivity.
"I’m particularly pleased that we are now able to provide a lot more than we had anticipated six months ago. What was going to be a resurface of a car park will now see the actual installation of charging stations for electric vehicles, brand new cycle and bus shelters and the installation of CCTV cameras, all of which will improve security and safety of users of the area.”
Regarding the progress on derelict buildings, Councillor Bremner said he was delighted with the success in securing funds to tackle this problem.
"If this is the progress we can manage in six months, I’d like to see where we will be within the year," he said.
"We have had some terrific community support and many people who have joined in the effort to achieve a better and improved town centre environment for our community. There is still a long way to go, and everything will take time, but we have started to deliver on what we said we would do.”