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Crisis Talks for Waterfront Project

CRISIS talks have been held over the future of Stranraer's waterfront project.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown met senior Council and Scottish Enterprise officials to gauge their throughts on the development's status.

And Mr Brown left the meeting on Friday with a "bleak and uncertain picture".

Dumfries and Galloway Council Director of Planning and Environment Services Peter Bulmer and Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway Operations Director, Stuart Dixon and Chairman Mike Keggans were also at the meeting.

The fears centre around the reorganisation of Scottish Enterprise, which could lead to funding for the Stranraer Waterfront regeneration being placed in the hands of the local authority.

This would vastly reduce the amount of money available for the project.

Mr Brown said the Scottish Executive needed now more than ever to give answers to questions hanging over the waterfront's future.

The MP said: "With the SNP unwilling to give local people and businesses answers, I had hoped that the bodies which have been responsible for delivering the Waterfront plans so far might be able to shed some light on how things will be in future.

"But it seems that just about everyone has been kept in the dark. All they could do was paint a very bleak and uncertain picture."

He said there was a general assumption that the restructuring would leave the council responsible for the Waterfront, although officials were by no means certain.

He said: "It gives huge cause for concern if this is to be the case because the council has spent its Waterfront budget, and the council has not put aside any extra cash.

"And the indications are that any cash that the Scottish Executive will make available for local regeneration nationally is likely to be a pittance, possibly even as little as £10 million to £20 million. If there is a very limited pot, no one will believe that the Scottish Executive will have Dumfries and Galloway in mind to be at the front of the queue to get this cash."

Councillors have already agreed to ask for an urgent meeting with Scottish Ministers to try to find answers.

Mr Brown said: "The biggest problem we have is that we just don't know what's going on and who will be responsible for what.

"Scottish Enterprise's new structure will be in place and operational in two weeks time, but the bodies in our region which will take on regeneration and economic development responsibilities, including the council, simply don't know what their job will be and how much money they will have to do it."

After the meeting a spokeswoman from Scottish Enterprise said: "The Scottish Government announced last year that local regeneration projects would be transferred to local authorities while Scottish Enterprise would remain responsible for delivering key projects important to economic growth at a regional level. We are involved in constructive dialogue with local authorities and are working towards reaching agreement on what's being transferred.''

She said Scottish Enterprise would continue to support the project as a partner.

The next steps were for the council to commission preparation of a Masterplan and Urban Design Framework for the waterfront and town centre. That work would be advertised shortly.

The masterplan would form a basis for attracting a development partner. Work was also underway to install the 50-berth boat station at Stranraer harbour as a precursor to private sector investment in the longer term.

A council spokeswoman said: "At the meeting on Friday Russell Brown was advised of the council's concerns; these were expressed by the planning, housing and environment committee at the March meeting.

"The committee decided to write to Scottish Ministers outlining their views and a letter is being prepared.

"The negotiations on the future of Business Gateway and local economic regeneration issues are being carried out at national level, led by COSLA, and those negotiations are continuing."

A Scottish Government spokesman said Enterprise Minister Jim Mather was happy to discuss the waterfront project with interested parties.

He said: "Projects will be classified as being significant at a local, regional or national level but no decisions have yet been made on individual projects."

 
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