Ambitious proposals to revive an ailing north-east town by bringing visitors in have been revealed

Community groups have suggested turning derelict buildings in the heart of Banff into a silversmith workshop and creative writing centre, and creating a designated farmers marketplace.

The town centre has long been a regeneration priority for Aberdeenshire Council, but now, with a funding deadline looming, real action could finally be taken.

In early 2014, the town was allocated £500,000 of Historic Environment Scotland cash under the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (Cars).

But none of the grant has yet been spent, and the council risks losing the cash if the projects are not completed by 2019.

Now, in a race against time, council planners and regeneration officers are working with community groups to draw up plans to breathe new life into Bridge Street and surrounding area.

In a report to the local area committee, environment planner Ross Wilson has identified four flagship initiatives – a creative writing centre inspired by Lord Byron at the former Tollbooth Hotel, a new home or shop in a listed building on Bridge Street, a dedicated farmers market near Carmelite Street and a silversmith workshop.

The total investment required to deliver all the projects is an estimated £1.1million, which would be a combination of the Cars cash and funding from other bodies, such as Aberdeenshire’s property investment fund, and the coastal communities scheme.

Mr Wilson said: “The reduced timescale to develop and deliver the projects could be challenging, however they are still felt to be deliverable.

“The proposed new priority projects require further development and will need to be progressed quickly. They are seen as the best way to deal with a number of problem buildings in Banff and will deliver a focused improvement to historic built heritage in Low Street.”

Last night, the chairman of the region’s tourism partnership, Roger Goodyear, welcomed the proposed schemes and said they had the potential to bring visitors to the area.

He said: “I have to say the whole resurrection of Banff silversmiths would be very good – it’s a wonderful part of the area’s heritage.

“Anything that’s done to that street has to be good for the residents and the visitors to Banff. It’s a blot at the moment. There are some beautiful buildings, and some awful ones.”

Mr Goodyear added that the silversmiths project “underlines” the rich heritage of Banffshire, which is a draw for tourists.

And local councillor Michael Roy has also welcomed the report.

“I’m delighted it’s coming forward and I hope we can implement it,” he said. “If we can achieve all the projects it can make a real difference to Bridge Street.”

But area committee chairman John Cox last night warned that investment in the Bridge Street schemes should not draw attention from the wider Banff and Macduff area.

“There are a number of good projects but we’ve got to put it into context,” Mr Cox said. “I welcome it but it has to be a holistic approach. This is not a panacea for all the economic issues.

“I welcome the initiatives but we can’t take our eye off the ball. We’ve invested in a number of attractions including Macduff Marine Aquarium and we need to continue to support them.”

Banff and Buchan councillors will be asked to approve the regeneration proposals when they meet in Fraserburgh today.

Source: Press and Journal

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