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Uncertain Future for Waterfront Project

STENA Line has reassured local politicians and the business community it is committed to staying in Lochryan and to the waterfront development plans.

But the Free Press understands there is discord in Scottish Enterprise and the council over Stena's lack of clarity of what it intends to do next.

And in the climate of uncertainty the waterfront project could now face lengthy delays.

The waterfront project was hinged on Stena moving from Stranraer and freeing-up 26 acres of land and clearing the southern end of Lochryan to allow a marina to function.

The ferry company says it will be looking at as many options as possible to stay in Lochryan, which include a new port at Old House Point north of Cairnryan.

Last week the ferry company announced the deal with P&O to create asuper ferry port project at Cairnryan had collapsed, sending the shock waves through the area.

Stena and P&O said they scrapped the multi-million pound project because of escalating costs.

On Tuesday local politicians, council officials and Scottish Enterprise met with Stena at Burns House in Stranraer to discuss the way forward for the waterfront development plan.

Route Director Alan Gordon said after the meeting that the overall tone of the meeting was positive with a clear dialogue.

He said: "I think the meeting was important to give everyone the opportunity to look at the proposal from a fresh perspective following last week's announcement and I'm happy to say there was a clear commitment from the main parties to continue to work together."

Peter Bulmer, Corporate Director for regeneration at Dumfries and Galloway Council said: "It was important to have this meeting as part of a process of ensuring that the regeneration plans that have been outlined for Stranraer over the years ahead stay firmly on track.

"I was heartened by the positive discussions which took place today and the collective commitment to the future development of Stranraer."

Yet when contacted Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway declined to comment on what it felt came out of the meeting.

It is understood the decision not to move and the uncertainty over what Stena intends to do next has stalled the waterfront project.

The waterfront vision had hinged on turning the harbour into a large marina, which would require no ferries in southern Lochryan.

The council and Scottish Enterprise are now believed to be looking at a number of options.

If Stena stay a much more reduced size development would follow.

A casino could still be built, although it would have to be built on council land.

But until the council and the enterprise company know Stena's intentions little can be planned.

The lack of information of what Stena plans to do next has also cast a shadow on more than 500 ferry jobs. Stena has repeatedly said in the past that it wanted to move out of Stranraer because the route had become "increasingly uneconomic."

However Mr Gordon has said Stena Line was committed to Loch Ryan.

He told Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown in emergency talks that Stena intends to continue its ferry operations from Loch Ryan.

Mr Brown said: "The meeting was very constructive. I went in very clear that I wanted a reassurance that there would be no threat to local jobs as a result of the announcement this week.

"Alan was able to give me this reassurance, as well as an assurance that Stena intends to stay on Lochryan and seek an alternative harbour site on the loch.

"Stena has invested heavily in this route in recent years, and they're adamant that there will be more to come. But I will be holding them to these commitments.

"Of course, questions still hang over the regeneration project for the Waterfront, and I'll be seeking further assurances from Scottish Enterprise and other regeneration partners that funds which have been committed to the project won't be jeopardised.

"But for the time being I'm relieved that this massive local employer sees its future in our area."

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