£1.3m award for two north Aberdeenshire regeneration projects welcomed

Regeneration projects in Banff and Fraserburgh will benefit from a cash injection of more than £1.3million, it has been announced.

The Aberdeenshire Council projects secured a share of this year’s £25million Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF).

Combined with recently announced lottery funding from Creative Scotland, Banff will get more than £300,000 to revive silversmithing in the town by bringing a derelict building back into artisan use as a studio for contemporary silversmith graduates.

The Meal House, a B-Listed building at the east end of Bridge Street in Banff, is on the “Buildings at Risk” register due to its poor condition.

Also known locally as the Old Smiddy, it will act as an incubation centre for up to five silversmith posts, with others potentially visiting, coaching and sharing equipment.

There are also plans to host night classes and longer courses during the summer.

The aim would be for graduates to settle in the area, possibly open a retail outlet and produce new silver pieces linked to the area once again.

The project is intended to re-establish Banff as a part of the silver industry, which flourished in the town from 1600s to the 1800s. A longer term aim is to establish the town as a Scottish centre for silversmithing.

Banff has its own assay mark – the letter “B” – and local products are much sought after by worldwide collectors.

The project will also shed new light on the precious collection of Banff Silver within the town’s museum.

Banffshire Preservation and Historic Society will be involved in the project and its spokesperson, Julian Watson, said: “As potential future managers of the historic building we commissioned a feasibility study and preliminary findings show that the building has the potential to provide a unique Scottish Silversmithing Facility.

“This will bring new focus to the town’s silver heritage, breathe new life into The Meal House and Banff Museum, as well as offering young silversmiths a unique opportunity.”

The Society was recently successful in securing further funding towards the cost of the development stage of plans to re-establish Banff as a centre for silversmithing.

Lottery Funding of £6,800 has been secured from the Open Project Funding Programme of Creative Scotland to develop a programme for graduate silversmiths and to build partnerships with interested arts organisations.

“Fraserburgh 2021”, a long-term regeneration effort to restore the built-heritage of the town, improve the town centre and improve health and wellbeing, will receive £1,056,243 towards the project total of £2.2million.

This project combines the redevelopment of Saltoun Square Council Chambers with a proposed new sports development at the town’s South Links.

The redevelopment of the Chambers and the adjacent former Police Station is a key part of the town’s newly-designated Fraserburgh Conservation Area.

The intention is to have an innovative mix of new uses, from an improved Council Service Point to facilities for community and civic functions.

A dedicated Enterprise Hub on the site will look to educate, support and accelerate indigenous business growth and ensure a pipeline of growing local businesses.

It is being developed in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland, among others.

Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC), David Aitchison, said: “We were very hopeful these applications would be successful because they demonstrate not just our commitment to regeneration, but the close working relations the Council has established with community groups who can help us to make these exciting things happen.

“The development of creative places and culture-led regeneration should be encouraged as an effective approach to delivering sustainable, high quality environments.”

ISC vice chair, Stephen Smith, said: “Securing funding for these developments is very important for our emerging vision of strong, resilient communities, where businesses and people are enabled to flourish.

“The combination of a revival of Saltoun Square Council Chambers and new sports facilities for the many existing and prospective sports club members in Fraserburgh were two of the earliest and strongest aims which emerged during consultation on the town’s renewal, so it is great news that we have not only listened but will now deliver what are the largest projects to date in our regeneration efforts for the town.”

The Fraserburgh sports development, proposed for Feuars land at South Links, will comprise an improved football pitch with running and athletics facilities.

An all-abilities cycle track will also be included and has been a long-term ambition for the many sporting clubs in the town which make up Fraserburgh Sports Hub.

Fraserburgh Sports Hub spokesman, Norman Reid, said: “We are delighted by the success of the council’s application to the Scottish Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, recognising the huge amount of work that officers have put into it.  

“After working with them on related projects for several years, we look forward enthusiastically to seeing our member clubs and the wider Fraserburgh community reaping the rewards of vastly improved sporting amenities, health and well-being.    

“We have no doubt this will make Fraserburgh an even better place to live, work, play and visit and would wish to thank the many people in the area who have supported us since our foundation.”

With major funding secured, efforts will now be focussed on securing the remaining funds and establishing the project teams responsible for delivery.

It is hoped work will start at Saltoun Square Council Chambers and Police Station in August 2017, with work on the sports development finished by autumn of 2018. The Silversmithing project in Banff is scheduled to be ready by 2019.

More information on the Banff Preservation and Heritage Society is available on their website