Author: George Gardner

There is genuine anticipation in the town about the long-awaited demolition of the co-operative building and the repurposing of the site. The latest update is extremely encouraging.

A meeting with senior EAC officials was held on Wednesday 24th April at the co-operative site including Gwen Barker (Head of Regeneration) and representatives of Darvel & District Community Council (DDCC) and Darvel Improvement Group (DIG). Two items were the subject of clarification and discussion.

Firstly, the timescale for demolition was confirmed– as the co-operative building is a listed building, Historic Environment Scotland now has up to 3 months to visit the site and make records of those features which secured the ‘listed’ status for the building. It is expected that demolition will take place over 4/5 days in July.

Secondly, time was spent in identifying those materials which might be salvaged for incorporation into the redeveloped site. These include the red sandstone building blocks, the black marble facia and the signage above the door on Ranoldcoup Road. For context the cheapest (although it is still costly) way to demolish the Coop is to rip it all down with a big machine. To salvage pieces intact needs hand demolishing which adds significant costs. Every pound spent on demolition is a pound less for development of the site. So, we need to find a balance between what we would like to rescue, what we can afford to rescue, what is practical to rescue and what will reduce the development costs. The potential reuse of the sandstone blocks needs to be closely evaluated. Most of it is ornamental and is likely to be unsuitable for a perimeter wall without significant and probably costly rework.

At East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday 1st considered a report which dealt with the allocation of the £1.7M Town Centre Regeneration funding made available by the Scottish Government to East Ayrshire. The report was approved and this included funding of £200,000 (including up to £50,000 for demolition and salvaging of materials) to the Garden and Market Project.

In order to progress this project and potentially others which will feature in the 2020-2025 Community Action Plan, it is essential that a charity (to be known as the Darvel & Area Regeneration Trust or DART) is established to take control of the funding and manage the site. Much more detail about this exciting development is given in a separate magazine article.

In tandem with the formation of DART, steps are underway to achieve the asset transfer of the cooperative site to us. An expression of interest in the asset transfer has now been lodged with EAC. When the asset transfer has been finalised, we will be able to take full control of the development.

Much of course requires to be done. While there has been overwhelming support for the general idea of the garden and market, there will need to be further consultation with the Darvel Community about various practical aspects of the development. Detailed plans will need to be drawn up for the Garden and Market which will be presented for planning permission. We will almost certainly need to seek additional external funding depending on the range of facilities etc which the garden and market might require.

But it’s all good news and at long last we might see our town centre, blighted so long by this ugly eyesore, begin what we hope will be sustained regeneration.