First town centre grants approved

Banchory is among a number of town centres that could benefit from the fund
Banchory is among a number of town centres that could benefit from the fund

The first grants from a £3.28 million allocation for town centre projects have been approved in Aberdeenshire.

Under the Scottish Government scheme, £50 million is being pumped into a nationwide Town Centre Fund to drive local economic activity and stimulate and support improvements.

The aim is to invest in inclusive growth which supports town centres to become more diverse and sustainable, creating footfall through local improvements and partnerships which encourage them to become more vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible places.

The council’s infrastructure services committee will be given a breakdown of the successful projects when it meets this Thursday.

Councillors will also be advised that owing to timeframes between ISC and full council meetings, the decision on the judging criteria and the approval of the first tranche of applications was made under delegated powers and with due consultation by head of infrastructure services Stephen Archer.

They will also be asked to delegate authority to Mr Archer to approve future applications following consultation with the ISC chair, vice-chair and Opposition spokesperson, together with the council leader and chief executive.

Key town centres, which could benefit from the fund, are those stated within the local plan and which align with the Town Centre First Principle, including Banchory, Banff, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Huntly, Inverurie, Macduff, Peterhead, Portlethen, Stonehaven, Turriff and Westhill.

However, communities will be advised that certain projects, which are in smaller town centres and score well on other criteria, will also be considered.

Mr Archer will advise councillors that the funds must be used during the 2019/20 financial year or be returned to the Scottish Government, so there is an urgency in allocating.

He says: “To qualify for funding, projects will have to be completed, or, at least work started or contracts signed within 2019-20.

“This will mean that projects will have to have planning permission, if required, in place before grant letters are issued.”