Regeneration cash for Mearns coast

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MEARNS councillor and Aberdeenshire Provost Bill Howatson has welcomed the Regeneration Action Plan which will see £75,000 spent on the Mearns coastal strip from Inverbervie south to St Cyrus.

The £75,000 is for the financial year 2010-11, which means the cash must be allocated to specific projects by the end of March.

Provost Howatson said: “This is a decent sum and is money which was formerly controlled by Scottish Enterprise, but is now being allocated by Aberdeenshire Council.

“The Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee has approved some broad themes for this expenditure.

“This includes £10,000 for the review and repair of the coastal path, including the bridges, £10,000 for transport and £10,000 each to the harbour and conservation areas in both Gourdon and Johnshaven.

“A further £25,000 has been allocated to develop a community resource centre in Inverbervie to cover the whole area and £10,000 to support social enterprises.

“This money has been allocated following significant community engagement. There was community consultation earlier in the year and officers were able to sift through the regeneration ideas which were put forward.

“A lot of issues were identified and these were very much home grown. It enabled us to draw up a list of strengths and weaknesses in the coastal strip.

“An analysis by officers identified areas where this money could be well and effectively spent and this is now being taken forward.

“This exercise fits into the local community plan and seeks to address some of the long term issues raised in the coastal communities.”

Provost Howatson says that more than £10,000 is set to be spent on the coastal path as money has already been allocated by the council specifically for work on the bridges.

“Transport was identified as a weakness in the coastal area and we stressed that there now needs to be some innovative thinking to address the issue of how best resources can be used for the benefit of the public and the economic wellbeing of the area.

“We are looking at using the community bus which is based in Laurencekirk and fostering better links between Laurencekirk and the coast.”

The provost explained that there was a need to build on existing successes like dial-a-bus with better integration of the transport system.

The harbours at Gourdon and Johnshaven are council-owned and as well as being working harbours, they are seen as key tourist attractions.

“The harbours are in conservation areas and part of our heritage, so it is important that we look carefully at how they go forward in the future.”

The provost says that the plan for a community resource centre will initially involve the use of the COMET van as a one-stop shop for a variety of different agencies.

“Regular visits from the van will provide a focal point for job centre staff and NHS Grampian and there will also be training opportunities arranged through Aberdeen College and Angus College.

“This will be an opportunity for people to go along and get the information they need and a permanent base may be created in the future.

“The money for social enterprises will provide support for businesses run by the community for the community. The coffee shop in Johnshaven, Benholm Mill and the Inverbervie caravan park are all likely to benefit.

“All these measures are based on community feedback and are designed to help and sustain the area.”