Regeneration plans for disused buildings in Irvine town centre are gathering momentum, thanks to levelling up money awarded to North Ayrshire Council.

A working group had already been set up earlier this year to look at future options for empty properties such as the old Ruby Tuesday’s in Bridgegate and the Forum.

But the award of £20million for the town from the UK Government's Levelling Up Fund means that group has now been disbanded.

North Ayrshire Council deputy leader Shaun Macaulay said last week: “It’s quite fortuitous that we had the £20m from the levelling up fund as we were already working on this before. So what we are doing now is seeing how the money can be spent.

“Our plan is to involve the community in this as much as possible, so we want a partnership between business, community and the council to make the best possible use of the money as well as the UK Government and Scottish Government.

“We must be realistic about what we can do. Setting up the working group has given us the best possible opportunity to take this forward.

“The area has huge potential. It used to be a good part of the town but has fallen by the wayside, so we are really keen to do what we can about it. We don’t have the resources we had 40 years ago, so we have to be smart about it. 

“The work that we do generally means that external funders are quite confident in giving us funding. That is why we have had quite a lot of levelling up funding and is a credit to our team in the council.”

The purpose of the now disbanded working group was to look at the ownership position and options for bringing the Forum building, Ruby Tuesdays building and subsequent surrounding buildings that have fallen into disrepair back into a usable state.

The study considered a range of potential alternative uses for the properties based on acceptable uses for a town centre.

This identified that retail, hotel, business, public buildings or green/public space uses were not considered viable uses and private sector residential development was not considered viable.

Affordable housing may be viable, depending on social housing developer and grant funding available.

Community and cultural uses would be viable as short-term/pop-up uses to stimulate activity. Food and drink and leisure uses were also considered as viable options.

The council was told that all the properties are in private ownership. Contact had been made with three of the four owners. 

Significant effort has been made by the working group and also over the last 15 years to engage with the remaining landowner, however they remained unresponsive.