North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane has hailed the work of community activists who are making their dreams of a better Beith a reality.
Beith Community Development Trust has big plans for the area and has already scored a series of successes, which started with the asset transfer from the Council of a state-of-the-art astro pitch in the town.
Late last year, the group’s ambitious plans got a major boost after the Scottish Land Fund awarded the trust more than £500,000 to help buy the 15-acre Geilsland Campus in Beith.
The trust has already started refurbishing the former Church of Scotland school facility, with exciting long-term plans to transform it into the ‘Gateway to North Ayrshire’.
North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane visited trust members to see the facility first-hand and offer support to the venture.
Councillor Cullinane said: “It’s remarkable what the trust members have achieved in such a short space of time.
“Their vision for the future of the site and their wider plans for improving the lives of the people of Beith are fantastic and incredibly ambitious – they should be applauded for it.
“I was so impressed by their commitment and positive attitude and I would be willing to lend support to help them achieve their aims.”
Beith Community Development Trust was originally formed in order to redevelop Beith Astro into a modern full-size synthetic football pitch but the group’s enthusiasm and drive to improve Beith soon saw members set new goals.
The biggest success was when the group won funding late last year to take over the Geilsland estate and transform it from a derelict school estate into a community hub.
Horticulture modern apprentices are currently creating a sensory garden for the community on part of the site, while the estate’s church has been used as a music venue, and work continues to bring former accommodation blocks on the site back into use.
Plans are at an advanced stage to transform the former sports hall into an indoor events centre while proposals are also being drawn up to allow camping and caravans on part of the site.
However, the trust is not restricting its ambitions to the Geilsland estate. It is taking its work into the heart of Beith whether that’s through its own beer festival, soup runs to the local school or Street Meet, where neighbours can get to know each other better through a neighbourhood barbecue.
Other projects include Pop-Up Beith, a temporary establishment on Beith’s Main Street over the festive season; BiRecycle, a regular bike recycling club; and Band Factory, where aspiring musicians can get together and play music, including live performances.
Jane Lamont, Business Development Manager at Beith Community Development Trust, hopes the Geilsland base will become the ‘Gateway to North Ayrshire’.
She added: “The Geilsland House site has huge potential not only for Beith but for the whole of North Ayrshire.
“It is a significant local asset that we believe will attract and support producers, enterprise and business which in turn will attract visitors to stop, linger and spend their time and money.
“The resulting jobs, training and personal development opportunties will benefit the communities of the Garnock Valley. It’s a huge opportunity and we hope local people step up to take advantage of it now and for the future.”