Campbeltown named Scotland’s most improved place

CARS officer James Lafferty and his daughter Lola, right, alongside Campbeltown Town Hall, one of the buildings which has been restored over the last 14 years, leading to the town’s success at the SURF Awards.
CARS officer James Lafferty and his daughter Lola, right, alongside Campbeltown Town Hall, one of the buildings which has been restored over the last 14 years, leading to the town’s success at the SURF Awards.

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Following an extensive, multimillion pound regeneration programme, Campbeltown has been named Scotland’s most improved place and an ‘increasingly attractive place to live, work and invest’.

Up against Fernbrae Meadows in Rutherglen and New Cumnock in East Ayrshire, Campbeltown town centre took the top prize at the 2020 SURF Awards for Best Practice in Community Regeneration.

Campbeltown’s triumph came thanks to a combination of community-led regeneration and the £13 million Campbeltown Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS), which have produced a ‘thriving town centre’.

Delivered annually by independent regeneration forum SURF, in partnership with the Scottish Government, the SURF Awards are some of the most prestigious regeneration awards in Scotland.

Campbeltown’s application was submitted in September last year, with news that it was short-listed announced in October. This would normally have led to a visit by the judging panel but this was not possible in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of the evaluation process, representatives from Campbeltown CARS and local community groups including Campbeltown Community Council, South Kintyre Development Trust and Keeping It Local, who were involved in producing a film about the project, held a two-hour assessment call with the judges.

A gala awards dinner in Glasgow was scheduled for December but had to be cancelled, so the results were announced at a virtual celebratory presentation event, streamed live online last Thursday evening instead. The Campbeltown project was represented by CARS officer James Lafferty, of Argyll and Bute Council, who has managed the project since 2007.

Representatives of the five category-winning initiatives were personally congratulated by the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Communities, Aileen Campbell MSP.

Emma Scott, events, information and communications manager at SURF, said: ‘This year’s winner of Scotland’s most improved place, Campbeltown town centre, showed what can be done when people from all sectors come together with a common purpose.

‘The town has faced a number of social and economic challenges in previous years but despite that, community resilience and a want for the town centre to thrive once more has led to the revitalisation of Campbeltown as a desirable place to live, work and visit.

‘SURF congratulates everyone involved in this transformative collaboration, and we look forward to seeing further proposals come to fruition in the years to come.’

Mr Lafferty told the Courier this week: ‘This awards win would not have been possible without the support of the community, my colleagues at the council, our funders including Historic Environment Scotland and so many others who have been involved over the years.

‘From a personal point of view, I am totally overwhelmed with all of the kind messages I have received since we received the award.

‘The award is for the people of Campbeltown and Argyll and Bute as work continues to attract more people to live, work and invest in this fantastic area.’

Some of the most recent restoration works have seen the transformation of McLean Place on Main Street.
The appearance and vibrancy of Campbeltown’s town centre has been significantly improved with investment of £13 million to repair more than 40 buildings, improve shopfronts and deliver parallel projects.

South Kintyre’s councillors also welcomed news of the awards win.

Councillor Donald Kelly said: ‘The regeneration of Campbeltown started in 2006 with a budget of £200,000 and has been developed and expanded over the course of the last 14 years to become one of Scotland’s most successful heritage-led regeneration projects.

‘This SURF Award is the icing on the cake and is testament to the hard work and dedication by many groups and individuals, ably lead in many cases by James Lafferty.

‘As local councillors we must continue to make the case for further investment in the town to build upon the good work all ready done.’

Councillor John Armour said: ‘I was delighted to watch the awards live last week and what a wonderful feeling it was to hear Aileen Campbell MSP announce Campbeltown as the winner of Scotland’s most improved place.

‘The council-led extensive regeneration of the town over the last 14 years is there for all to see. There have been many funders groups and individuals who have made this happen and it is probably unfair to single anyone out, but I feel some of those involved deserve individual recognition: the work James Lafferty and his team have done overseeing everything is fantastic and I know they are the envy of other towns all over Scotland; Bill Halliday and Moyra Paterson from housing services, working with over 70 home-owners, securing £3 million in grants for their properties, some of which were in a dreadful condition; David Mayo and everyone involved in the restoration of Campbeltown Picture House; Catherine Dobbie for persevering in her endeavour to restore the iconic Campbeltown Cross; and South Kintyre Development Trust for its work in renovating and bringing Campbeltown Town Hall into use again.

‘Everyone involved over the years has put so much work into getting us to where we are now and this award is for all of them. Hopefully the lifting of Covid restrictions will allow visitors to come back to Campbeltown very soon and see everything for themselves.’

Councillor Rory Colville said: ‘This is a tremendous outcome justifiably achieved by the commitment and endeavour of so many individuals and corporate organisations. Together we must build on this success and see the award as the foundation of future ambitions to make Campbeltown even better.’

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron this week submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament praising the efforts of all those who contributed to Campbeltown’s success.

Mr Cameron said: ‘The award is very well deserved and will place Campbeltown in a better position to recover from the economic impact of the Covid pandemic which has hit a lot of local businesses very hard.

‘It’s heartening to see the community working together so effectively to achieve these improvements, and the council and its partners for devoting so much time and care into ensuring that the commitment has delivered real change and improvements.’