Author: Steve Gillies

With over 100 individuals having completed the Big Darvel Questions Survey we can already see some common topics in the responses. Positively, many have responded to the survey saying that what they like about Darvel is the lovely scenery, fantastic walks, beautiful area and, of course, the supportive, friendly and close-knit community.

In contrast, what we do not like is the state of decaying buildings which many people feel are a dispiriting eyesore and an increasing danger in our midst. It is clear that we’d like to see these demolished or replaced by something that enhances our community and townscape and is in keeping with our local building traditions.

Improvements are being made. Many have been positive about the newly refreshed and colourful Hastings Square. Feeling it is more in character with and a better representation and advert for our town. Also, we are relived and happy that the Cooperative Building is soon to be demolished and hopeful that it will be replaced with the ambitious new Main Street Market and Garden.

However, this is only the start. The Turf Hotel is decaying by the day. It is privately owned outside of our community who are difficult to contact and properly engage. It has taken over 10 years to get to the point where the Cooperative Building will be demolished, waiting that amount of time to see the Turf Hotel addressed is unacceptable.

The Band Hall in Mairs Road is a pretty and much-loved building which, with some investment and imagination, could be developed into a useful community asset. Survey responses have suggested several interesting ideas on how this building could be used to re-generate our community. However, the roof needs attention, the floors are dangerously unstable, and it is rapidly declining into an unsafe status.

There are other sites to include in our horrible hit list. The disused factory in Jamieson Road is another blight on our townscape. Again, it is an increasingly dangerous site and an increasingly dispiriting sight. The steps down to the River Irvine in Morton Park need attention from both a safety and aesthetic point of view.

And, there are other sites that will inevitably decay unless they receive more attention. The shared public space in Hastings Square is showing signs of decay. Some of this may be addressed by the proposed new Sir Alexander Fleming Memorial but not all of it. And, maybe most worrying of all, there is the Town Hall. It is described on East Ayrshire Council’s Website as “a magnificent two storey ‘B Listed’ building which sits prominently on the Main Street in the centre of the village”. It is a fine handsome building which needs to be used by the community as the funding available for its upkeep and development will not be made available.

One option is to take the public buildings in our horrible hit parade under community control through the ‘asset transfer process’. However, this needs careful investigation and due diligence to ensure that the community can re-generate and develop these buildings into affordable and sustainable town assets.