Dumfries multi-million pound funding package confirmed for Midsteeple Quarter

Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur, centre, with members of Midsteeple Quarter, other project funders and contractors in front of the construction site on Dumfries High Street. Left to right: South Scotland MSP Emma Harper, Dominic MacConnell of Nixon Development, Midsteeple Quarter board member Joe McGurk, Midsteeple Quarter Executive Director Scott Mackay, Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur, South of Scotland Enterprise Chairman Russel Griggs, Midsteeple Quarter board member Alison Macleod, Holywood Trust trustee Amy Agnew and Steve Rodgers of Dumfries and Galloway Council

A SCOTTISH Government minister has marked the official start of work on the first phase of major redevelopment at Midsteeple Quarter in Dumfries.

Planning and Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur visited the town centre regeneration project yesterday (Monday) as he announced £3.4m of support from Holyrood towards the £7.2m transformation of the former Baker’s Oven.

The disused site at 135-139 High Street is being turned into new homes and business units – a significant milestone in the work by the community-owned enterprise Midsteeple Quarter to buy vacant buildings and bring them back into use.

Years of campaigning and fundraising by townsfolk to bring the former Baker’s Oven and four other buildings into community ownership – to breathe new life into the area – has enabled the project to reach this point.

The funding package supporting the first major phase of work is made up of:

  • Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF) – £3,460,000. 
  • South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) – £2,199,852. 
  • Dumfries and Galloway Council (via the Place Based Investment Programme) – £916,889.
  • Holywood Trust – £350,000.
  • Dumfries High Street Limited (trading as Midsteeple Quarter) – £300,000. 

Representatives of the funders met with the Minister, members of Midsteeple Quarter, as well as project and construction contractors as the financial package was confirmed.

Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur MSP said: “I welcome this project to bring vacant buildings at Midsteeple Quarter back into use as housing and other sustainable solutions to meet the town’s needs and interests. It is already helping people to live well locally.”

“Innovative projects like this demonstrate the powerful role communities can have in helping transform their town centres and neighbourhoods by investing in their future, and I’m delighted that investment from the Scottish Government and COSLA’s £25 million Regeneration Capital Grant Fund will help make it a reality.”

“As part of our National Strategy for Economic Transformation, the Scottish Government will do all it can to support projects that help create the fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland we all want to see.”

The other project funders have also spoken of their delight at work getting underway, with the scheme expected to take about 18 months to complete.

South of Scotland Enterprise Chair Professor Russel Griggs said: “This is another huge milestone for Midsteeple Quarter and the transformation of Dumfries town centre.”

“The project has reached this stage thanks to the hard work of the Midsteeple Quarter team, the input of the Dumfries public and support of  public, private and third sector organisations.”

“SOSE is committed to helping revitalise town centres across the South to become greener, vibrant and more inclusive places.”

Chair of the Economy and Resources Committee for Dumfries and Galloway Council, Katie Hagmann, said: “This is excellent news and I’m delighted to see the first phase of this valuable regeneration project progressing. It is important to not only preserve our historic environment, but to improve the area, which will encourage new businesses and boost footfall in our town centres.”

Vice-chair of the Economy and Resources Committee, Sean Marshall, added: “We need to attract people back into our town centres in order to boost our local economy. Derelict and poorly maintained buildings can blight the local environment and have a negative effect on communities. This project will make a very positive and productive contribution to Dumfries.”

RH Irving Construction was selected to carry out the phase one works following a competitive tendering process. The project is being managed by construction project management specialists Nixon.

Planning permission for the transformation of the former Baker’s Oven was granted in 2020.

It will see the building transformed and extended, creating enterprise space at ground level and part of the first floor as well as seven flats on its upper floors.

The creative enterprise area will include space for pop-up projects, one-off events, long-term units for hire, a retail unit and co-working space.

The homes – which will be owned by Midsteeple Quarter Community Benefit Society – will be available to rent at an affordable-to-mid-market rate.

Midsteeple Quarter’s work to take buildings into community ownership – underpinned by the principle that this is the fairest way to act in the interests of townsfolk to create a stronger, more sustainable town centre – is considered as trailblazing.

The community benefit society also owns numbers 109, 111, 113-115 and 117 High Street.

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