Boost to support a more vibrant economic future for Balivanich

The focus to boost town centres in the Western Isles now moves to Balivanich.
The focus to boost town centres in the Western Isles now moves to Balivanich.

A new era for Balivanich is taking a step forward with the news that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is set to prioritise the Balivanich Regeneration Project under the Town Centre Fund.

The Scottish Government announced in December 2018 that it would provide a new ring-fenced £50 million Town Centre Fund for 2019-20.

In March the Govenment confirmed the award for the Western Isles was £223,000.

The purpose of this grant is to enable the local authority to stimulate and support economic investments which encourage town centres to diversify and flourish.

This could include re-purposing buildings for housing, retail, business, social and community enterprise, services, leisure, and culture, tourism and heritage; and, improving access and infrastructure.

Cllr Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, said: “Following discussions with the Scottish Government, it is proposed to prioritise this grant to support the recently approved Balivanich Regeneration Project.

“The Report on the Balivanich Strategic Vision to the Sustainable Development Committee in September 2018 was endorsed by the Comhairle.

“The Balivanich Regeneration Project meets the key criteria for the use of the Town Centre Fund in relation to adopting a town centre based approach to regeneration and in relation to the Place Principle.”

North Benbecula, which includes Balivanich, has a population of 790, while South Benbecula has a population of 532, a total of 1,032.

Typically, the Scottish Government use the National Records of Scotland (NRS) definition of a town centre which is a minimum population of 500, while the Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) has a working definition of a town as a population of 1,000.

Cllr Crichton continued: “Prioritising Balivanich therefore affords an opportunity to accelerate aspects of the Balivanich Regeneration Strategy and to seek match funding in order to maximise the overall economic and social impact.

“This approach retains a degree of flexibility to consider other investments in order to ensure the grant conditions are met in relation to using the funding in the 2019/20 financial year.”