North Ayrshire high flats housing plan ‘could bring 1,000 new jobs’

Council leader Joe Cullinane at the Fullarton flats in Irvine

Proposals to transform North Ayrshire’s tower blocks transformed into modern low-rise housing could help trigger a major economic boost for the area with the creation of 1,000 new jobs, according to a new report.

North Ayrshire Council’s cabinet last month agreed to move forward with a proposal to look into the future of Irvine’s five tower blocks and a further two in Saltcoats.

A comprehensive six-week consultation got underway with residents last week to discover their views of the various proposals for the high flats.

One option would see the tower blocks upgraded with sprinklers installed, while another considers the possibility of removing the tower blocks and building modern, energy-efficient homes on the sites. A third option would see new houses on the Irvine site and the retention of the Saltcoats tower blocks.

A report for the council suggests that the demolition of the tower blocks and construction of 369 new properties to replace them could create approximately 1,000 new jobs and give North Ayrshire’s economy a shot in the arm.

North Ayrshire Council leader Joe Cullinane said: “Over the coming weeks, we will be speaking one-to-one with residents and getting their views on the various proposals for the high flats.

“The relatively small difference in costs between retaining the high flats and building new properties means it’s definitely worth exploring if this is the best option for both our tenants and the council.

“The fact that so many new jobs could be created is something which should be welcomed as it benefits all of our communities.

“However, the most important aspect in all of this is the tenants themselves.

“There is a clear evidential link between quality housing and health and education benefits so I believe this could be a real opportunity to have a positive impact on our tenants’ lives.”

Late last year, North Ayrshire Council launched its Strategic Housing Investment Plan which aims to build 1,000 new council houses across North Ayrshire over the next four years.

In addition to the potential jobs created through replacement of the tower blocks in Irvine and Saltcoats, it is expected that thousands more could be created through the ambitious house-building programme.

Furthermore, contractors will be expected to participate in the council’s Community Benefits scheme to provide apprenticeships to young people which increases the skill base and supports economic growth.

Consultation with tower block residents got underway on April 3 and it is hoped that the majority of the one-to-one sessions will be completed within the first two weeks although the consultation will continue after that in an effort to engage with as many affected people as possible.

A report on the outcome of the consultation is expected to be brought before the council this summer, with the next steps to be considered at that stage.

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