Decade of work brings jobs and opportunity to Irvine Bay

The fruits of ten years of hard labour, imagination and engagement has been set out for the people of the five towns of Irvine, Kilwinning, Saltcoats, Stevenston and Ardrossan, when Irvine Bay Regeneration reported at its final Annual Public Meeting.

The regeneration company is being wound down, and last week saw the organisation hold its last APM at the Gailes in Irvine.

Chief Executive Patrick Wiggins, who has led the organisation throughout its existence, set out some positive headline figures to illustrate the scale and scope of the work undertaken during a period that saw Irvine Bay tackle market failure and the deepest economic recession in memory.

Key to the work of the regeneration company has been creating new jobs and opportunities, and in that regard significant success has been achieved. The headline figures on jobs included:

  • 1283 FTE new jobs in the area
  • 536 jobs in construction
  • 256 training places in 1699 training weeks

Patrick Wiggins, Chief Executive of Irvine Bay, said: “Our focus has always been on creating jobs and helping businesses to develop by generating better infrastructure and opportunity. We have been able to do that – despite a long and deep recession – through the investment made in our work by the Scottish Government, and in particular through the creation of i3, Irvine’s Enterprise Area, and through the willingness of the Government, Scottish Enterprise and North Ayrshire Council to fund us to develop better business space to suit the needs of local and incoming companies.”

Market failure led to the creation of Irvine Bay Regeneration Company ten years ago. Hard on the heels of the creation of the organisation came the economic crash of 2008, and the added complications the recession brought in the years that followed.

But thanks to the funding secured from the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and North Ayrshire Council, the regeneration company has been able to carry out a significant programme of work that will continue to deliver new jobs and opportunities long after the company itself winds up this year.

By its nature, regeneration work involves tackling and reversing decline caused by market failure. When the private sector loses confidence in an area and investment drains away, then business and jobs inevitably start to fall. Patrick Wiggins added: “The whole point of regeneration is to see the public sector lead investment in an area, pump-priming projects and creating new confidence. There is a cost to the public purse, but the benefits are significant and continue to deliver for years to come.

“Funding from the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and North Ayrshire Council has been vital in releasing other investment – for example more than £100 million of capital investment now committed by the private sector in i3.

In the past few years, the key focus for the regeneration company has been i3, Irvine’s Enterprise Area. Created in 2012, with a focus on life sciences, chemical sciences, engineering and manufacturing, i3 is the only Enterprise Area with both business rates relief and enhanced capital allowances.

Created within the former Riverside Business Park, Irvine Bay took on responsibility for managing, developing and marketing the site and progress has been impressive. Patrick said: “Our support and investment has seen a 56% increase in the number of companies within i3 with the total now standing at 39 companies, with a further 2 companies due to move in 2017. More than 2,000 people are now employed within i3.

“An additional 560 jobs have been created or relocated within i3, with a further 534 contractors working for companies in i3.”

The company has redeveloped over 21,500 sq m of office space and nearly 59,000 sq m of commercial space within its key business areas. More than 88,000 sq m of derelict land and buildings has been reclaimed within key locations, and Irvine Bay’s work within the local economy has seen them support 53 companies to develop and expand their businesses.

Patrick Wiggins believes that regeneration has to be an holistic process to be successful and sustainable is evidenced by the work carried out by Irvine Bay to transform town centres through public realm work, and through the creation of business centres and vital community assets, such as the new health centre in Ardrossan; and also through the work carried out in local schools as part of Regeneration Youth, one component of an award-winning engagement campaign.

Patrick Wiggins added: “Economic progress is our key aim. Everything we do is designed to create opportunities and confidence, to make Irvine Bay a place where people and communities can thrive, develop and meet their potential.

“That means we have had to tackle property market failure, create high quality business space to help developing and incoming businesses, create development space. But we also have worked hard to ensure that our communities have seen investment and improvement, particularly in some of our public and community spaces.”

“We have also been successful in gaining funds from elsewhere, notably the UK Government and European funds, and we have secured over £10 million in funding to support local projects – such as the redevelopment of Trinity Church and the expansion of Kilwinning Community Sports Club.”

“Nearly 54,000 sq m of public realm within our towns and business areas has benefitted from major physical improvements. In particular, our public realm work in the town centres of Kilwinning and Irvine has been recognised with a number of design awards, and has seen the town centre businesses boosted.”

A strong advocate of involving local communities in regeneration work, Patrick is delighted that Irvine Bay has supported 70 local community groups on a range of local projects such as the development of Glebe Tennis Courts, the expansion of Kilwinning Sports Club and the creation of a community hub in the PRYDE project.

In addition, Irvine Bay has played a key role in protecting the area’s built heritage with 14 listed buildings restored, and has worked to open up the area’s outstanding coastline through the development of 2 kilometres of pathway.

While the figures are impressive, without the support and involvement of local people and groups little would be achieved. To that end, Irvine Bay has worked hard from the start to engage in a constructive, innovative and proactive way with the local communities.

Patrick said: “Our work has seen us engage with over 19,000 people at various events, meetings and public displays.

“Through these connections we have engaged with local communities, raising awareness of regeneration and creating lasting legacies. To be truly sustainable, and to deliver genuine value for any public investment, it is vital that the local population is truly engaged in the process and feel that the opportunities that regeneration can create are there to be shared by them.

“That is why, at Irvine Bay Regeneration Company, we decided that investment in education was a vital component in our activity, engaging with our young people and through them, with the wider population.”

Irvine Bay has worked with over 14,400 young people from 41 schools, 3 colleges, the University of the West of Scotland and 41 business partners.

Talk Science @ Irvine Bay was a programme of inspirational talks, lectures, workshops and online resources for schools and the public in the Irvine Bay area. The activities focused on topics closely aligned with the regeneration of Irvine Bay, helping to build interest in engineering, science (particularly life sciences), information and communications technology, manufacturing and entrepreneurship. The activities tapped into the knowledge and expertise of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Fellowship and other relevant experts. Those events aimed at school children had strong links to the Curriculum for Excellence.

In all, through the school years 2014/16, a total of 143 events took place. Each activity was evaluated, as was the programme on its completion. The results have been overwhelmingly positive.

Well-known speakers included author Ian Rankin, geologist and TV presenter, Professor Iain Stewart and RSE President Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the world-renowned astrophysicist.

Patrick said: “Talk Science @ Irvine Bay has demonstrated that an education programme can be closely and successfully aligned with regeneration activity, helping to build interest in key topics – in our case engineering, science, IT and communications technologies, manufacturing and entrepreneurship.”

While the journey is nearing its end, as the regeneration company prepares to hand over regeneration responsibility to North Ayrshire Council in 2017, the story isn’t finished yet! Projects underway could lead to the creation of almost 4,500 jobs through our investment in business infrastructure.

In all, the company’s work has been recognised through 16 national awards and commendations.