East Ayrshire

First steps taken to turn East Ayrshire castle into top class tourist destination

Standing outside of Rowallan Old Castle (from left) Ian Walford, joint chief executive at Historic Scotland; Niall Campbell, castle owner; Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs; Cllr Douglas Reid, East Ayrshire Council leader; Ranald MacInnes, head of heritage management west, Historic Scotland

Standing outside of Rowallan Old Castle (from left) Ian Walford, joint chief executive at Historic Scotland; Niall Campbell, castle owner; Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs; Cllr Douglas Reid, East Ayrshire Council leader; Ranald MacInnes, head of heritage management west, Historic Scotland

Rowallan Old Castle in Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire is to be removed from state guardianship in a move which will pave the way for its conversion into a key feature of a top class tourist destination.

Announced by Scottish ministers on Friday, the move follows negotiations between Historic Scotland, Rowallan Castle’s owner Niall Campbell, and East Ayrshire Council.

The owner can now progress plans for the building’s sympathetic conversion into unique hotel accommodation, as part of the Rowallan Castle Golf Course and Country Club, while maintaining the historic integrity of the building.

Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs was at the castle to make the announcement.

Ms Hyslop said: “One of the key priorities of Scotland’s recently introduced Historic Environment Strategy, Our Place in Time, is that we have to be ambitious and innovative in our approach to the historic environment. Change is an inevitable part of this and the important thing is how we manage this change – there has to be a balance between protection and innovation. I believe that, thanks to the collaborative working between local government, the castle owner and Historic Scotland, we’ve been able to achieve the correct balance and I look forward to seeing the re-use of the building acting as a catalyst for enhancing economic and social wellbeing in the area.

“Scottish Ministers remain absolutely committed to conserving Rowallan Old Castle as a nationally significant monument for future generations to enjoy.  This step will pave the way for an innovative and productive partnership between the national agency, the local authority and the building’s owner which will be in the best interests of the monument and the local economy.”

Niall Campbell, the Castle’s owner said: “I’m absolutely delighted with today’s announcement. We’ve come a long way in getting to this point and there’s still a bit of work to be done. Thanks to positive discussions with Historic Scotland and East Ayrshire Council, I’m now in a position to progress with plans to convert the building into something which can be lived in, using minimal intervention, in a sympathetic manner that is consistent with the building’s history and cultural significance.

“The end result will be a wonderful new space for visitors to the area, which retains all of the features that make the castle so special, and will be a benefit to the local community for years to come. I’m sure that my distant relation, James Muir Campbell, who lived in the house seven generations ago, would be proud of what we’re trying to do.”

Councillor Douglas Reid, leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “Tourism is key to the East Ayrshire economy, and an integral part of this Council’s economic development plan is to build on our existing tourist product. To that end we are delighted to be able to work with Mr Campbell to add another option for top class accommodation in the area. Building on the recent success story of Dumfries House, and the work we have done with Conservation Area Regeneration Schemes in all our major town centres, today’s announcement will undoubtedly add to East Ayrshire’s growing reputation for history, heritage and outdoor tourism, as well as creating jobs and bringing money into the area.”

Rowallan has attracted the wider attention of architects and experts in the heritage sector in recent years.

Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: “The sympathetic restoration and adaptation of historic buildings to new uses is in everyone’s interests. It recognises that such buildings provide literal touchstones to our shared past, ensures their preservation for future generations to enjoy, provides employment and helps deliver a viable economic future for Scotland’s communities. It is often challenging to achieve all of this, but undoubtedly worth the effort.”

Mr Campbell’s proposal includes converting the Old Castle into an exclusive annex of the current 5 star Rowallan Castle and Golf Country Club. The annex will comprise of 4 double bedrooms, dining room, lounge gallery and lounge sitting room (solar). Work is expected to get underway in Summer 2015 and take around 12 months to complete.

In order to provide for the future conservation and management of the building a detailed, 30 year conservation plan has been agreed upon, which includes conservation and maintenance stipulations as well as public access requirements. The plan was proposed by Mr Campbell and prepared by leading conservation architects with experience of working with historical buildings. The agreement is legally binding and would apply to any future owner or owners of the building during the 30 year period. Guardianship will only be rescinded once Scottish ministers are satisfied that all these terms have been met.

Rowallan Old Castle dates from the 13th – 18th centuries and lies close to Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire.  It is situated within the grounds of Rowallan Castle Golf and Country Club. The site consists of the ruined remains of historic structures and an important 16-18th roofed and habitable domestic range.

Scottish ministers are guardians of Rowallan Old Castle by virtue of a Guardianship Agreement dating back to 1950, when it was passed into State care by the Rowallan family. Guardianship gives ministers the responsibility for repair and maintenance as well as presentation of a site. Historic Scotland currently look after the castle on behalf of Scottish ministers.

East Ayrshire Council to deliver £395m of schools investment

East_AyrshireEast Ayrshire Council has announced a capital investment of £395 million to deliver a range of ambitious and innovative education projects.

Proposals were unveiled for the creation of a £63m Learning and Enterprise development in the Cumnock area. The Knockroon Learning and Enterprise Campus will be the first of its kind in Scotland; offering education and training opportunities for young people of all ages and all abilities, including early years, primary and secondary education, special school, further education in partnership with Ayrshire College, and business enterprise opportunities.

The announcement compliments plans previously approved for the construction of a new £40m Learning Campus for 3-18 year olds in Kilmarnock, bringing together two existing primary schools and two secondary schools and including Gaelic education.

In addition, four new primary schools will be built, namely St Sophia’s Primary School, Galston; Bellsbank Primary School and Early Childhood Centre with Community Facilities, Dalmellington; Muirkirk Primary School and Early Childhood Centre, with community facilities and a merger of Bellfield and Kirkstyle primaries in Kilmarnock.

There are plans too, to undertake a major school refurbishment programme, for improvements, extensions and smaller building works on a number of existing schools to ensure the entire school estate reaches either an A or B quality rating.

The council has also approved expansions at various early childhood establishments to create the facilities necessary for the provision of 600 hours of early learning and childcare for all 3 and 4 years olds and those 2 year olds who are looked after or under kinship care orders.

In recognition of the increasingly significant role digital technology plays in education, a budget of £290k has been allocated to provide mobile devices to support pilot work in three schools, providing vital internet resources to support their learning.

Presenting the proposals to Cabinet, Councillor Douglas Reid, leader of East Ayrshire Council said: “The new proposals will see East Ayrshire Council delivering two of the biggest and most ambitious education projects in its history, and will also result in every school in the area benefiting in some way from this major investment programme.

“We are committed to giving our young people the best possible start in life. These youngsters are the future of East Ayrshire and it’s vital that they have access to the best possible facilities and learning environments as they progress through the different stages of the education curriculum and eventually into employment.

“This investment in our schools is confirmation of our confidence in our young people.”

£450m plans unveiled to regenerate Loudoun Castle

Loudoun Castle

Developers have submitted plans to turn a former family theme park into a £450m holiday and leisure destination.

The Loudoun Castle Project aims to create an all-weather resort at the 610-acre site at Galston, East Ayrshire, featuring 450 luxury lodges, 12 glamping pitches, a lake and leisure development, indoor sports facilities and an indoor subtropical water park. Up to 2,500 new jobs could be created.

The site will also feature a new distillery, while Loudoun Castle itself will be stabilised and leading conservation specialists will assess what can be done with the building.

It is anticipated that around 1000 jobs will be created in the construction process for a period of at least five years, with an additional 1500 long-term jobs created through the leisure and retail side of the plan.

Key partners in the Loudoun Castle Project include private investment group EIF, global programme management and construction consultancy Turner & Townsend, global planning consultants RPS and specialist castle and heritage consultant Francis Shaw.

David Mace, chairman of the Loudoun Castle Project, said: “A development of this size and scale will provide Scotland and Ayrshire with significant long-term economic benefits both in terms of jobs and tourism.

“The local community and Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley MSP Willie Coffey are delighted that we have assembled such a strong team of professionals that are committed to turning this vision into reality.

“Scottish tourism has had a great year given the international attention the country has received in 2014 through the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming Scotland.

“We are keen to maximise the legacy created, by adding a world-class all-weather leisure facility and a visitor attraction that has real stand out. We will clearly attract new visitors from home and abroad and positively impact Ayrshire, making the whole of Scotland proud.”

Nick Laister, senior director at RPS Planning & Development, which is submitting the planning application on behalf of The Loudoun Castle Project, said: “Since the site was allocated in the East Ayrshire Local Plan in 2010, it has been an aspiration of the Council to secure the future of Loudoun Castle as a major tourism destination.

“Having been involved with the planning of the site since the middle of the last decade, I am delighted to be submitting a planning application for a development that is going to realise that vision and have such a significant positive economic impact on the area.

“This proposal will create a unique, high quality resort in this dramatic location with the restoration of the Grade A listed Castle at its heart.

“We have spent the last 18 months consulting with the local community and refining the plans and we look forward to working with East Ayrshire Council and other local stakeholders to make this hugely important development a reality.”

There are also plans for a residential development featuring a mix of house styles including starter homes, bungalows and three, four and five-bedroom family homes.

Project bosses this week submitted a planning in principle application to East Ayrshire Council for the two-phased development.

If the local authority gives the go ahead, work would begin onsite in 2016. Developers expect the first phase to open in 2018.

Councils welcome £330m Schools for the Future funding announcement

Waid entrance

Plans for an innovative, ground-breaking replacement building for Waid Academy in Anstruther have been unveiled following the £330 million Scottish Government investment into expanded Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme.

The Waid will be one of six secondary schools and two primaries which make up Fife Council’s Building Fife’s Future Programme.

Fife Council leader Cllr. David Ross, said: “We have very ambitious plans for The Waid, to create not just a school but a whole community hub which is both innovative and inspirational in design and which will serve all the communities of the East Neuk. Today’s announcement that SFT will part fund the project will help us realise those ambitions much sooner and I am delighted we can now move forward with this exciting project.”

The Waid will be a ground-breaking, collaborative project, which will bring a huge range of public services under one roof. This will be a first, not just for the communities of Anstruther and the East Neuk, but it will be the first of its kind in Fife and can deliver a blueprint for a new way of working for all Fife’s community partners.

Perth & Kinross Council has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government of funding of £14.5 million to facilitate replacement primary schools for both Tulloch and Kinross.

The funding will be added to the £8.5m previously identified from the council’s Capital Programme and will allow the local authority to replace both schools on their existing sites.

The council has been in discussion with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Future Trust for a considerable amount of time regarding possible investment which would lead to replacement schools being developed in these two communities. With the funding available, work on the new schools will begin as quickly as possible. It is anticipated that both new schools will be operational for the 2017/18 school session.

Councillor Bob Band, convener of the council’s lifelong learning committee, said: “We have been aware for some time that Kinross and Tulloch Primary Schools are coming to the end of their usable life, and have been actively developing options to allow us to continue to deliver high quality education with minimal disruption to our communities.  When the latest round of funding from the Scottish Government was made known, we were able to submit a strong case clearly setting out the requirements for replacing both schools for the benefit of over 800 pupils who will now receive their education in a modern facility.  This funding will allow us to move forward with our preferred option for replacing both schools and I am delighted that neither of the communities will be losing out.

“I would like to thank the Parent Council’s from both Tulloch and Kinross for their patience while we pursued a range of funding opportunities.  I hope today’s announcement will satisfy everyone and that we can all continue to work together to develop two new schools that will serve these two communities for many years to come.”

Children and communities across East Ayrshire will also benefit from the announcement by the Scottish Government to provide funding towards the replacement of six schools in the area.

The schools involved are: St Sophia’s Primary School, Galston; Bellsbank Primary School, Dalmellington; Muirkirk Primary School and three schools in Cumnock – Greenmill Primary School; Barshare Primary School and Hillside School. The three schools in Cumnock will be located on a single campus, all subject to any necessary statutory consultation.